“Tony? How is this possible?” Danny was speechless.
The man who looked and sounded like his cousin stepped forward, “It’s a long story and I will gladly tell it start to finish, but not right now. Marah is in danger, Romeo has her, and I need your help.”
Danny and Michelle looked at each other. He could see how conflicted she was. Tony coming back from the dead was bringing all the heartache back to the forefront, her eyes glossy with impending tears. She came to him and pulled him close. Danny didn’t know if he was comforting her or if it were the other way around.
Tony looked at him imploringly, “You always told me you had my back.”
Danny’s eyes snapped back to the man who was essentially a stranger. That damn dream again. “I’ve always had your back Tony.”
“That’s good. Because trouble is here and I need you.”
Stepping from behind Tony came a worried looking Ray, “Listen to him Danny, he is telling the truth.”
Even without the dream telling him to believe he knew Ray wouldn’t lie to him. “Okay. What do you need?”
Tony took a deep breath, “Where did my replacement die?”
Replacement? This had to be one of the most cryptic conversation Danny had ever had. “I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about but you died at Laurel Falls.”
“Then that’s where he’d take her, and where I need you to take me.”
Marah tried to scoot way but the chloroform still had her sluggish and weak. Just how Romeo liked it judging from his menacing laughter.
“What? Not happy to see me? I hear you didn’t like my present. Tsk tsk, you will have to be punished for that.”
“You don’t consider cutting my brake lines and putting me in the hospital punishment enough?”
He kept approaching slowly like a tiger stalking its prey,”That was to drive your precious Tony out of hiding.” Marah’s face must have registered shocked because he let out another round of laughter, “O-ho that’s rich. Like Tony didn’t seek you out the moment he got back into town. Don’t play me for a fool Marah, you won’t like the consequences.”
Marah tried to keep the fear from creeping into her voice, “Tony is dead.”
Romeo stopped and searched her face for signs that she was lying. “You mean you don’t know.”
“Know what? How you got out of prison? Why you came back to terrorize me? Why the Earth is round? What Romeo, What should I know?” Marah was pissed. The world had been turned upside down this week. Romeo Jones was just the icing on a truly fucked up week.
“That Tony Santos is alive and well.” Romeo reached into his jacket and pointed a gun towards her, “For now. By tomorrow you will all be a bad memory.”
Tony came bursting into the clearing, “Put the gun down Romeo. It’s over.”
Romeo turned the gun towards the new arrival,”Well hello again old friend, welcome to the party. And I say it’s just begun.”
Rafael lay poised on the ledge, a high-powered scope revealing the scene before him. Mentally gauging distance and wind velocity he could easily take out his target. But he bided his time, you never rushed these types of situations. He spoke into the headset,”Target sighted standby for my signal. ”
Marah felt like she had been sucker punched. There stood a very much alive Tony Santos. Sure his hair was a little longer, his body more lean, but there was no mistaking his identity. She slowly moved her hands to the tree she had backed against and tried to stand. It was a struggle but at least she was upright, for now.
Tony tried desperately to manuever himself between Marah and Romeo, “Just let her go Romeo, she has nothing to do with this.”
Romeo laughed bitterly, “She has everything to do with this. And you can stop moving Tony, I can see what you are trying to do and it won’t work.”
Tony obeyed but his eyes briefly sought out Marah as if to ensure she was safe, or at least as safe as possible. She gave a brief nod to confirm she was alright, even though she still clutched the tree like a lifeline.
Tony raised his hands in a non-threatening gesture of surrender, “Look you won okay. You found me, you can finish me off. Just let her go.”
“Oh I am going to do better than that, I’m going to rid the world of the Santos family. No one gets the best of Romeo Jones, not even perfect Danny and Michelle. You all thought you were better than me, but who’s holding all the cards now? ME!” Romeo thumped his chest with his free hand, “Me who sent your replacement to ruin your life and the lives of those around you. You were always so stupid. You were all too busy waiting for Carmen’s next move that you ignored the true mastermind of the great Santos family.”
Tony decided to pander to Romeo’s ego, all he needed was a small window of opportunity to wrestle the gun away, “You mean you?”
“Close, but no. She saw that I was meant for better, that I wasn’t so pathetically weak like you or precious Danny. ” Romeo laughed at Tony trying to fit the pieces together, “You truly are a fool Tony Santos. It was your dear sweet Maria”.