Chaper Nine

Tony pulled his hat down lower and stayed to the shadows. Not that anyone was paying attention to him but it paid to be cautious. He waited till the elderly lady left before he approached his destination.   His heart was racing and his palms clammy but he wouldn’t be deterred. He stepped inside the confessional and took a deep breath, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been…a long time since my last confession.”

“Does not matter. All that matters is that you are here now.”

Just hearing Ray’s voice brought tears to his eyes but he pressed on, his voice rough with emotion, “I have brought a lot of pain to those I love. I have made a lot of mistakes over the years.  Now I have been given a second chance and I am not sure I am worthy.”  What?   He hadn’t planned on what he would say but surely not THAT. But as soon as the words came out of his mouth he realized he meant them. Did he deserve a second chance?

“True second chances are rare and precious. You should embrace the opportunity before it is wasted.”

Easier said than done. He had a lot to make up for, especially considering the amount of destruction his “replacement” had caused in his absence.   He cleared his voice, “Do you believe in ghosts Ray? As a kid I was afraid of them, now I am one.”

There was silence on the other side of the partition. No doubt Ray was shocked speechless. Then came the small, “Tony?”

What the hell?   He may not deserve a second chance but he was taking it. “Yeah Ray. It’s me.”

***

The three adults sat around the kitchen table, a St. Anthony’s medal laying on its polished surface like a ghost from a nightmare.   A similar one had once been a gift of love…then became a symbol of murder and tragedy.

Michelle, ever the efficient one, was taking notes trying to make heads or tails of the situation.  “What do you think it all means?  We have Tony’s account being accessed and now this.”

Marah knew it was a message, she just didn’t know what it meant.  The only people directly involved in that awful event were gone.  Romeo was currently rotting away in prison and Catalina had been dead for over eight years.   “They are both linked to Tony.  I checked the postmark on the package, it was sent from California.  I don’t even know anyone in California. ”

Danny’s head snapped up.  California.  It all starts there.  “My accountant Mr. Stevenson is supposed to get back with me soon about the surveillance footage of the person who accessed Tony’s account.  Whoever it was picked up the money in the local bank so they should have something at least.”

Just then Marah’s cell phone started ringing making her jump.  She was jumping at everything since she’d gotten that blasted medal in the mail.  Marah looked at the display, “Excuse me, it’s my mom.” 

Danny watched Marah leave the room and turned to Michelle, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

But before Michelle could question her husband Marah was back and gathering her things. 

“Sorry to cut this short but Reva has requested my presence at Company.  Something about a family dinner, which considering Reva’s cooking should be a nice respite.” She eyed the medal with a mix of fear and dread before finally shoving it in her purse.  “Let me know if you find out anything.”

Danny got up and walked her to the door.  He suddenly remembered his dream, Tony had said trouble was coming.  Was it already here?  “Marah I don’t know what any of this means.  It could be someone playing a cruel joke or it could be…something else.  But just the same, be careful.”

Marah gave him a friendly hug. “I will.  Take care of that wife of yours.”

Danny had no intention of doing otherwise.  If there was something sinister going on he would make damn sure his family was protected. 

***

“What?  How?”  Ray was beside himself.   He couldn’t find the words, he doubted they even existed.  His brother was ALIVE!  He just held his brother tight like he would never let him go.

As Tony recounted his tale Ray’s tears fell silently down his face.  Madre de Dios!   He grieved for this brother, now he ached for him.  All that Tony had lived through.  Locked away from the world while an imposter lived his life.  Sounded like something out of a soap opera!  But it explained so much.  Tony had changed after that last break-up with Marah.   And that relationship with Michelle had been so out of character for Tony.  They all loved Michelle, but like a sister.  

“Ray you can’t tell Danny and Michelle.  At least not yet.”

Ray was taken back, “Why Tony?  They will be just as ecstatic that you are alive as I am.”

“Ray the men that held me captive are still out there.  They kept me alive for a reason.”

“You think they will come to Springfield?”

It made sense.  No one invested that much time and effort only to let their target get away.  “I do.  And I don’t want to endanger Danny, Michelle, and Robbie.”  Or Marah.

“And Hope.  They had a daughter while you were…gone.  They are expecting another child soon.”

Tony’s heart-felt heavy with all that he’d missed.  But it solidified his point, Danny didn’t need danger being led to his front door.  He’d wait till the enemy showed their faces then he’ll deal with them once and for all.  “Ray promise me you won’t say anything till I am certain the danger is gone.”

“I’m a priest Tony.  It’s not like I have much choice.”

***

Marah raced home and got ready as fast as humanly possible.  Hey eyes were still red with lack of sleep but there was nothing she could do about that.  By the time she got to Company there wasn’t a parking spot to be found and she finally had to break down and park two blocks over.  She didn’t know if it was Danny’s parting words to be careful but just the same she eyed her surroundings with critical eyes.   Seeing nothing out of the ordinary she got out and started walking towards the restaurant.  Marah hadn’t made it a block before she suddenly felt a chill go down her spine.  Someone was watching her.   Marah nonchalantly looked over he shoulder, and saw a man approaching. 

 She quickened her pace.  She had to get to Company, she didn’t know if he was following her and quite frankly she didn’t want to find out.

Just then another figure stepped out in front of her and Marah couldn’t hold back her scream.

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