What Matters Most~Chapter Thirty (Part One)

You know that warning about the upcoming graphic scenes? This would be them.

It was almost nightfall by the time Marah had mustered up enough bravado to head home. Even now she felt like her emotions were stripped raw, way too close to the surface, and seeing Tony would rip her to shreds. To her immediate relief the house was silent, the only sound coming from Toby as he once again made himself at home. At least one of them was happy to be back.

Walking into their bedroom she was surprised to find that Tony had straightened up the clothes she had tossed about in her haste to get to her parent’s place. And there on the dresser was a vase filled with roses, their sweet fragrance filling the room. Tears immediately sprang to her eyes. Why did he have to be so sweet? “Damn you Tony Santos!”

She was tempted to throw them out, she didn’t need or want any reminders of ‘sweet’ Tony Santos. Not when she was angry. She marched over and picked them up in her hand more than ready to toss them in the trash when she saw the note. And if she wasn’t already a glutton for punishment she picked it up and read aloud. “Dear Marah, Even these roses aren’t as beautiful as you. I Love You. Please never forget that. I know I never will. Forever, Tony.”

Marah sat on the bed and let the tears fall freely.

***

Carlos waited in the dark alleyway for John but all he saw was the shadows left by the streetlights overhead. As their appointed meeting time came and went Carlos was practically seething with restrained anger. After all he had done for the little shit this was how he was going to repay him! He knew John was showing signs of hesitance and Carlos had known he was going to have to eventually be eliminated in case he decided to open his big mouth and spill his guts to Springfield’s finest. But John’s sudden burst of conscious was moving things ahead of schedule. Carlos slammed his hand against the steering wheel in frustration. “Damn it!” Having a man on the inside made sense and it got him what he wanted most. But getting rid of him was going to be messy and was bound to draw unwanted attention.

He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out tools of his trade before shifting his car into drive.

***

John crept along side the house keeping to the shadows. The last thing he wanted was for the neighbors to get nosy and think he was some burglar and call the police. Then he would never get anyone to hear his side of things. Not like he had much hope of getting anyone of listening to him anyway. But at least he could try, he needed to to redeem himself somehow. He looked at his watch, 9:40. Shaking his head he moved towards the back yard. It had taken almost an hour to talk himself into blowing off the meeting with Carlos. To decide that redeeming part of his soul was worth whatever punishment was coming his way.

He rounded the corner and let out a sigh of relief. He had made it without being spotted by some nosy neighbor prowling the house at all hours of the night. He was momentarily worried about the small guest cottage out back, but the lights were all extinguished inside. So he continued with his task, the Santos family needed to know. He approached the back door and was about to knock when a strong-arm caught him around his throat.

Carlos’ deep voice hissed in his ear. “Sorry Johnny I can’t let you do that.”

The knife blade gleamed in the moonlight before Carlos struck it deep into Johnny’s side making him gasp in pain. And as Carlos continued to plunge the knife deeper into John’s flesh the blood began to flow down his side like a warm river.

After what felt like long minutes Carlos unceremoniously tossed John onto the covered swimming pool, crouching down so he could watch the last bit of life slip out of the other man. “I would say I am sorry it had to come down to this. But it’s a dog eat dog world and tonight you were the dinner and I was the diner.”

John gasped, red tinted foam forming on the edge of him colorless lips. Almost silently he whispered. “Screw you…”

From inside the house the dog’s began to bark…

***

Marah bundled herself up in a thick robe against the autumn chill and descended the stairs. Toby was wanting outside and had started barking loud enough to wake the dead. He had certainly woken her from the first decent night’s sleep she’d had in weeks. In the kitchen he stood pawing at the door looking almost desperate to get outside. “What is it boy?”

Beside her leg Toby simply vibrated with the need to get beyond the door. Flipping on the back porch light didn’t alleviate much of the shadows beyond the doorway but at least it was clear. She reached for the doorknob and turned. When she opened the door Toby shot out like a light heading straight for the pool. Following to see what had caused his commotion Marah felt pure terror run down her spine when she felt a large body come up behind her. Turning slowly all she could see was the bulky figure of a man, the light made it impossible to distinguish his identity. Fear and adrenaline took over and she opened her mouth to scream when the man lifted one of his large hands and covered her mouth, effectively trapping her scream.

Moving away from the light so she could get a better look at him Marah felt her entire body go numb when she realized who she was looking at. But she had never seen his face look so grim. Rafael glanced towards the pool where her dog still sniffed and whined. “I am sorry I scared you but we don’t want to disturb the scene anymore than it has been. You need to call 911.”

When Marah nodded he finally removed his hand. It was only as she dialed the number that she began to wonder about his words. Scene? As in crime scene?

***

Not for the first time Tony was thankful that he had something, anything, to occupy his mind. He would have been even worse this past week if it wasn’t for Infierno. He had been burning the midnight oil for the past two weeks in an effort to keep himself busy. However, the ringing of Tony’s cell phone finally broke through his work-induced haze. Frustrated he answered it with a terse, “Santos.”

“Tony, this is Rafael. You need to come by your house. There is a…situation.”

All the blood in Tony’s veins ran cold at Rafael’s tone. The older man was known for being brash, hard as nails, but now he was acting almost hesitant. “Is it Marah? Is she alright?”

“Just come. I’ve called the police but you need to get here fast.” The line went dead and Tony stared at his cell phone for a few seconds. Suddenly Tony was overcome with a sense of panic. What if something had happened to Marah. Rafael had given him no answers when pressed. As if on autopilot Tony was out of his chair and yelling for Danny in his next breath. He had to get to Marah, had to make sure she was alright.

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