“Julius, wait up! Julius!”
Julius ignored his brother and continued to walk quickly towards his car.
“Julius, Bro, please wait!”
Julius stopped suddenly, turned and angrily grabbed hold of his brother, pushed him up against the side of a car and held him there. “The one thing I told you not to tell Don Kempalos, the one thing, Johnatus!”
“You know how he gets, he’s always asking questions about you, always trying to figure out what you’re doing. I just thought that if I told him, he would stop asking questions and cut me some slack.”
“So you tell him the one thing I asked you not to tell him so that he would cut you some slack? You sell me, to buy yourself some brownie points?”
“It wasn’t like that! Come on, Julius, no matter what I do it’s never good enough for him. It’s always about you, ‘Where’s Julius? What’s Julius doing? Why isn’t Julius here?’ Julius this and Julius that-”
“That’s why I don’t tell him anything, so that it will stop being about me. Do you think I want to live like this forever?”
“I messed up. I’m sorry, Julius. It’s not like I had that much to tell him anyway. You only mentioned that someone was going to have your baby; who she is, what she does is still a mystery to me. Come on, let me go, Bro, I didn’t mean any harm. I just need to keep myself in grandfather’s good books. I’m too accustomed to the lifestyle he provides.”
Julius released him, “Why do you want this lifestyle so badly? Can’t you see the damage it does to people?”
“I don’t look at that aspect – I look at the power and control it gives. The money and the power are like a drug. I can go anywhere and people respect me. From cops to judges, from politicians to your everyday Joe – I get respect because of who I am and because of who my grandfather is-”
“People don’t respect him or you; what they feel is an emotion called fear. Respect is to hold someone in high esteem. Do you think that if Don Kempalos didn’t have enough evidence to shut the entire police force down this side of America, anyone would give him the time of day? He has half of the men in blue on his payroll and the other half begging for a spot. He knows all their corrupt, dirty little secrets and he uses what he knows to get what he wants.”
“Everyone knows that dirty cops are worse than us, they are a bunch of crooked vultures.”
“That may be but dirty cops as bad as some of them are have limits to what they can do. They don’t have the same reach and they don’t destroy innocent lives.”
Johnatus studied his brother for a few moments, “You have never gotten over Elaina, have you?”
Julius recoiled slightly at the mention of her name, “I don’t have time to go down that road right now.”
“Look, I felt bad about what happened to Elaina but that had nothing to do with us. We are not responsible for how Vitto and his guys run their operation-”
“So who is responsible, Johnatus? You just said that you like the money and power this lifestyle gives you. Where do you think the money comes from? It’s from people like Vitto and the others out there who run brothels and give a cut to the Old Man. Where do you think the girls who work in the brothels come from? Do you think they actually volunteer their services, free of charge? Maybe we didn’t know it then because we were young but we know now, we know that girls like Elaina are trafficked from their countries in Eastern Europe. They are told that they will have a better life here. They don’t get told that they will be forced to work as a prostitute. They don’t get told that they will have to be on call for twenty-four hours a day, every day of the week. They don’t get told that when they catch a disease like gonorrhea or syphilis or when they become too haggard for the customers they get sold like a piece of meat to the Asians. We were young when we met Elaina and we didn’t know how she came into this country or how she was forced to work for Vitto; we didn’t understand what he did for a living. Elaina was a beautiful person and she became our friend and then one day she disappeared. It was much later that we found out she had gotten sick and because Vitto couldn’t sell her he killed her. He said that she was of no use to him anymore because she had too many diseases. He said she was contaminated and had to be disposed of like trash.” He shook his head, “Sometimes I wonder if you even remember-”
“I remember,” Johnatus said, “I remember how she used to make us laugh when she cussed in her language? How she would play cards with us and the other kids to keep us occupied when a commission meeting was taking place?”
“She was a human being with a family back in Europe. She was only seventeen . . .”
Johnatus nodded; he looked embarrassed. This was the first time they had spoken openly about Elaina since her murder. He never talked about what happened to her because he believed it was a topic that if he never mentioned or revisited, he could make believe it never really happened and he could hide behind the make belief. “What happened to Elaina was wrong; that sort of thing is forbidden in the organization now and doesn’t happen anymore-”
“Look around you, Johnatus, there’s an ‘Elaina’ in this organization everywhere you turn!”
“Julius, you make it sound like everything we do is bad. We help people, we take care of people.”
“For a price! We both know what happens when they can’t pay the price. Do you think I would be here or have anything to do with any of this if my hands weren’t tied?”
“Is that why you’ve never taken a penny from grandfather or the organization?”
“When I found out what the organization did and what it stood for, I vowed never to take anything from it or from him. It would be like benefiting from Elaina and all the other innocent people. I think of the lives lost and destroyed while you think of the lives owned and controlled. I guess we’re just different people, Johnatus.”
“Why are we even having this conversation, Julius? It’s too morbid. I need to get back inside, are you coming back in?”
“No, I’ve done my bit for today. I’m going.”
They both heard footsteps and turned, “Excuse me, Mr. Cabonelli, I was told to come and get you, Don Kempalos is looking for you, Sir,” the man informed Johnatus.
“Tell him I’m on my way in,” Johnatus told him.
“Yes, Sir,” he said then ran back towards the house.
“The Old Man has changed your name from Johnatus Kempalos to Johnny Kempton to Edward Cabonelli – is this new name official?”
“Yeah, I got the paperwork last week. Grandfather said I needed to change my name again; he doesn’t want people coming after me to get to him. You know how he gets he said that as I’m married with a kid I need to be more elusive. Times are changing and word is some of the smaller families may try to muscle into some of our areas.”
“You think that’s the real reason?”
“Of course it is. What other reason could there be?”
Julius studied him for a few moments; he wasn’t sure if his brother was telling him the truth or not. “You’re right, what other reason could there be?” He said, despite the fact that he knew the real reason for the change of Johnatus’ name had nothing to do with protecting him or his family but everything to do with a secret that he had accidentally overheard years ago, on the night before they left Sicily for America. A secret he had never shared with Johnatus.
After taking a hot shower, which removed his fake tan and the thick gel from his hair, Julius dressed in completely different clothes and combed his hair differently. He removed his colored contact lenses and blinked a couple of times as his eyes readjusted. He scrutinized his appearance in the mirror; after a few moments he was satisfied that no one in the organization would recognize him. He left his secret apartment and headed to the basement where he kept several cars hidden in a locked garage. The apartment, the cars, his work and his relationships, were things that Johnatus and his grandfather knew nothing about and he aimed to keep it that way. He knew that they had him followed in their attempts to find out what he did outside of the organization and he always outsmarted the men they sent to follow him. He was cautious and elusive – he had to be, he had learned how to be from the best – his grandfather. Although he knew no one from the organization would recognize him, he drove around until he was satisfied that no one was following him then he headed to the hospital.
“We followed him when he left here like you told us. We got as far as Santa Monica then he just disappeared, Mr. Cabonelli,” the man nervously reported.
“What do you mean by “he just disappeared”? Where did he go? Which direction did he head towards?”
“We don’t know. I thought east but Tony thought west. One minute we were right behind him at some traffic lights then this truck comes along and he cuts right in front of it and when it passes we don’t see him.”
“You get nothing from the hospitals. He out smarts you again on the road and you both have the front to stand in my presence and tell me ‘he just disappeared’. Get out of here, go on, get out of here before I do something you’ll both regret and I enjoy.”
The men quickly left the room.
Armed with a large bouquet of beautiful flowers, Julius walked into the room. He stopped suddenly and looked around. The room was empty. His wife and son had gone. Before the panic could surface, he rushed out of the room to the nurses’ station. A young nurse sat at the station filling in medication cards.
“My wife was in room 14 – where is she and my son?”
“Room 14?” The nurse queried as she frowned and looked in the direction of the room, “I’m sorry, Sir, but I don’t recall there being anyone in room 14 today. Let me check on our new computer system; I only started my shift a couple of hours ago.” She typed some information onto the computer as Julius tried to push the panic he felt rising inside of him down. “No, according to the computer there has been no one in room 14 for three days. Are you sure it was room 14, Sir? Could it have been another room?”
“Of course I’m sure – I was here a few hours ago!”
“This computer is new but we do get the odd glitch now and then, ummm . . . room 14, let me see.”
He took a deep breath then exhaled, “Listen to me very carefully, check your computer system again and tell me exactly where my wife and son are or get someone out here who knows where they are. Either way, do something right now!” His eyes were cold and his expression deadly.
“Let me get the sister in charge. Hold on, Sir.” She picked up the receiver and pressed some numbers. “I need you to come and talk to this gentleman out here. He’s looking for his wife and son who were in room 14 but according to our records that room has been vacant for three days.” She paused as she listened and nodded. “Please come right now, Sister, he’s standing right in front of me and he wants an answer.” She listened some more then replaced the receiver.
“Well?” Julius asked, his patience dwindling fast.
“Hold on, Sir, the sister in charge will be out shortly. As I said I only started my shift a couple of hours ago and-”
They both turned as a door flew open and a woman in a blue nurse’s uniform rushed towards them, “Hi, I’m the sister in charge, please come with me. We had some problems earlier on, two men were caught wandering around the rooms and we had to get security up here and the police. Come with me.” She took the flowers from him, led him to the stairwell then rushed up the stairs ahead of him.
Julius felt as if his world was hanging on a fine balance, ready to tip over at any moment. Anxious thoughts, coupled with panic, attached to fear, ran through his mind in no sensible order. He hadn’t told Johnatus the name of the hospital. He hadn’t told Johnatus that his baby had been born. And, he specifically recalled his grandfather telling him that Johnatus had said he didn’t know which hospital it was. But if two men had been spotted loitering around, this meant that Johnatus had somehow found out which hospital it was, lied to his grandfather and sent men here without his grandfather knowing. His heart pounded as he ran up the stairs after the nurse. “Are they okay? Can you slow down and tell me if they’re okay?”
She didn’t answer his question. She continued up the stairs; her face had a somewhat determined look on it. Julius stopped suddenly and looked at her; she could be anyone; she could be leading him into a trap.
She paused and looked back, “Why have you stopped? Come on, we have two more flights to go. I’m sorry I wasn’t listening to what you said just then and I just realized that I haven’t introduced myself to you properly. I have a lot on my mind and I haven’t slept properly for nearly two days now. My name is Dorothy McKenna and I was just thinking to myself how strange life can be sometimes. At 3 o’clock this morning I stood with a knife in my hand ready to kill my husband. I planned that after I killed him I would come into work, so I did. When I got here I saw that your wife wasn’t feeling too well so I had her and your son moved upstairs to be monitored properly. When I got back down to Maternity, Mrs. Clarke in room 7 had a ruptured placenta. Then I saw two men loitering around. They looked like they were trying to steal a baby so I called security who called the police. Then the heating in parts of the Maternity ward broke down. It’s been all systems go since I got here. I know I’m rambling on but just think if I hadn’t been going to kill my husband and then come in early, I wouldn’t have seen those men! I wouldn’t have been here when your wife needed help! I wouldn’t have helped to save Mrs. Clarke’s life! I wouldn’t have organized getting some of the mothers and babies moved to St Andrew’s. So you see it, don’t you? You see it? I was meant to kill my husband and come in early!” Flowers held under her arm, she gesticulated frantically with her hands as she tried to get him to see what she was saying. “You wouldn’t believe how much blood there was. I have never seen so much blood. Come on, let’s go, we have two more flights, we’re nearly there.” She turned and continued up the stairs, expecting him to follow her. Julius was about to follow her when a sign caught his eye. He froze as he stared at the words ‘Psychiatric Ward’ and the arrow pointing upwards.
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