Chapter Nineteen

Tony’s hospital room was like Grand Central Station.  It was currently filled with family, police officials, hospital staff, and the occasional “well-wisher” who was looking for some juicy gossip.   He could understand the curiosity, after all how many people come back from the dead?  But at the same time he was quickly becoming frustrated with the constant interruptions.  And to make matters worse Marah had been whisked away by her parents the minute they arrived and he hadn’t seen her since.  He was getting desperate here.  They had a lot of air to clear and Tony was tempted to go track her down himself…

“So one more time, how did you come into contact with Romeo Jones?”

But first he had to answer Frank’s endless barrage of questions. “For the fifth time I don’t know.  I left Springfield to get some perspective.” He thought back to why he had left.  He and Marah were over and he had tried pushing her away.  Danny and Ray had been angry with him for that very reason.   It was such a stupid move and it ended up damaging so many lives.  “I decided to go to Chicago.  See some friends from the old neighborhood.  That’s the last thing I remember before waking up locked in my cell.”

He hated recounting what happened to him but also hated seeing the pain, and even worse the pity in everyone’s eyes.  He didn’t want it, they had suffered just as much as he did. 

“Do you know the identity of the man we thought was you?” 

“No.  I was just told he was my “replacement”.  It was all part of Romeo’s plan.  To destroy everything good in my life.”  He glanced over at Danny and Michelle.  This was another area that needed some major spring cleaning. “He knew how much you both meant to me, and how much you love each other.  Having me come between that love would ruin your relationship as well as my relationship with Danny.  I’d take a bullet for you Michelle and I do love you, but only as a sister and as the woman who makes my cousin complete.”  Tony hated the tears in Michelle’s eyes but if they were ever going to be able to be a family again it had to be said. 

Frank looked over at Rafael, who up until now had remained silent and stoic. “And just where do you come in to this story?”

Rafael just shrugged,”I took a chance picking up some poor beaten man by the side of the road and ended up in the story of the century.”

“You’re either incredibly trusting or terribly naive.” 

“I am neither.  I knew he was telling the truth the day after I picked him up.”  He looked over at Tony and grinned, “I told you that you weren’t the only one ‘connected’.  Sent over a glass you used at my house to some friends who are still with the Bureau which confirmed your identity.  Ever wonder how you were able to withdraw money without an ID?”

Tony couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of a Fed helping out a Santos.  But still he owed the man his life, “Thank you Rambo.  I owe you more than I can ever repay.”

Rafael just shook his head, “Damn smartass.  Technically he was Special Forces.  Son I am a Marine.  Plus I had help from some old friends.  Those men with me last night?  They owed me one.  We hoped he would be more concerned with payback than doing his homework and it paid off.  He even hired one to eliminate Danny and Michelle.  Suffice to say we were more than willing to take down that monster.”

Frank finally seemed satisfied with his answers.  He took the videotape that Danny had taken of Romeo at the Falls and left to go fill out the police report.  Which left the remaining group in tense silence.  Finally Danny spoke up, “Why didn’t you come to us when you first got into town?  We would have helped you damn it!”

“I couldn’t bring danger to your door.  Especially when Ray told me that Michelle was pregnant.  I couldn’t risk it.  What if whoever had me had found you?  What if they hurt you to get to me?  We both grew up without fathers Danny, I couldn’t do that to your kids.”

Danny could understand that, but he held onto the mad.   He turned towards Ray, “And you!  You didn’t think to inform me that our Tony was alive?”

Ray look chagrined but held up his hands helplessly, “It was under the seal of Confession.  I wanted to, desperately.  But I couldn’t.”

***

Marah stood in the doorway, reluctant to interrupt.  She knew the family had a lot to discuss and frankly she was nervous.  She was thinking of making her escape when Ray spotted her and came over to greet her. “Marah!  It’s been a long time.  Glad to see you’re alright.”

She returned the other man’s hug. “Hello Ray.  Good to see you.  But I see you’re busy I’ll just come back later.” 

“No it’s okay Marah.  You stay, we have to get home to the kids anyways.”  Danny helped Michelle rise from her chair next to the bed, ” And I promised Michelle I’d take her by Len’s on the way.  She’s got a major jones for some fudge ripple.”  He looked over at his cousin, “I’ll see you tomorrow.  And even though I could beat you senseless for not coming to us for help I am glad you’re alive and that you’re back.”

Rafael and Ray made their exits as well and finally they were alone.

***

They were finally alone and Marah didn’t know what to say.  She wanted to thank him for saving her life but it seemed so trite.  But she gave it a shot anyways, “Thank you Tony, for saving my life. ”

Tony attempted to sit up straight cursing his sore shoulder.  This was his chance, he was going to finally get to say what he’d been feeling for six long years, “Marah I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Don’t you know….”

Just as he started to lay his heart on the line a man entered with a boy and girl on each arm, “Marah you ready to go?  Collin is down for the count and Sarah is convinced she is starving.”  The man looked at him and nodded, “Hey man, thanks for saving her.  I’d shake your hand but I’m a bit short-handed at the moment.”  Indicating the children he was holding.

Those should be our children, his and Marah’s.  He had told himself that this was a possibility.  That in the six intervening years she had probably moved on. That was just logic.  He had even hoped she had, he hadn’t wanted her to let life pass her by.   But confronted with the proof made his heart hurt.  He had to get them out of there before he lost it.  “No problem.  I’ll see you around Marah.”

Marah frowned, what was going on here?  “Tony, I…”

“My shoulder is really hurting and they said I needed my rest.”

Marah was lost but when he closed his eyes she knew he was shutting her out.  She may not have known what she was going to say to him but she expected…more.  “Okay I’ll go.  Thank you again Tony.”  When he made no attempt to reply she finally joined Jonathan and headed home.

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