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56

A private plane, I learned, is the way to travel. None of that racing to the airport, getting there hours ahead of time. Instead, you roll up by means of a taxi, right to the airplane, and calmly hand your bag to the pilot. Theres none of that stripping down to your underwear in order to get through security, no shoving of products into two-ounce bottles and then shoving them farther into a freaking quart-size baggie so all the world can see your eye cream and deoderant.

Theo had had to bargain with his partner and other shareholders to get the plane so last-minute, but he must have been persuasive, because there it was, just for us. Theo had offered to personally pick us up, but Id told him to stay put. There was no reason for him to fly to Italy and back again. But as I stepped on the plane, I wished he were there with me.

Eight single seats were on either side of the cabin. They were huge, made of ivory leather.

Maggie sat in one, bounced up and down. These are great!

My father and I got in next. We inadvertently sat in seats across from each other, right at the same time. It felt weird. Maggie seemed to sense the unease and said, Izzy, come here so I can show you something.

She drew me up to the cockpit, introduced ourselves to the pilots, then pointed, rather randomly, at some of their instruments.

She dropped her voice then. Are you sure you dont want to tell your mom about Maggies gaze drifted over my shoulder to my father. My father.

I cant. I cant just tell her on the phone. Hey, Mom. I know your son was kidnapped, and thats because a Mob group wants revenge or leverage or something against me and your ex-husband-whoOh, yeah, by the wayis alive.

Maggie grimaced. Guess not.

She turned and led me back to the seats. Maggie took the one across from my father. I nodded my thanks and took the seat across from Elena.

Maurizios body had been left in an area where they were sure to find him today. We had convinced Elena to come with us, despite the fact that she desperately wanted to be in Italy to plan funeral services for her husband. However, my father was certain that the Camorra would question Elena in detail about Maurizios killing, and because her niece had been asking around about her father, the Camorra would soon, if they hadnt already, figure out that Christopher McNeil was not only alive but involved in Maurizios death. My father was also certain that although an extreme loyalty existed in the System, they wouldnt be so kind to Elena as they had in the past, not when they realized that she had known the whole time that her brother was alive. And working against them.

My poor aunt was understandably distraught. She sat on her ivory leather chair, fiddling her hands in her lap as if she could not decide what to do with them. She glanced up at me a few times, seemed to be on the verge of tears. I spoke to her softly, trying to comfort her, but all I could say was, Im sorry. Im so sorry. Im so sorry.

Its my fault, she said. My fault.

But even as I failed in comforting her, I began to wonder if I should blame myself. It was my curiosity, my wanting to find my father that led me to Italy, that led Elena to take me to his office, that led Maurizio to follow us, that led my father to kill him.

Determined to be of service and not the source of more agony, I tried a few more times to say something appropriately soothing to Elena, but when she shook her head, fast and for a long time, as if she could not stand any words, any thoughts, anything, I stopped.

My father had killed someone. I returned to that thought as I looked out an oval window while we slowly began to taxi the runway. My father had killed someone. In his line of work, the possibility that he had killed more than one person was a distinct one. The recognition of this fact was as bizarre and surreal as the rest of the experience. I kept looking at him, one row up, thinking that I did not know this man. Not at all.

Maggie tried to make small talk with my father. Actually, as the plane began to pick up speed, she was quite successful. Soon she had him interested in a story about a Mafia case shed handled, where the sheriff in charge of taking the alleged mobsters to court had tracked down one of their key witnesses, and then let the mobsters know where that witness was.

Of course the whole thing was taped, Maggie said. So the sheriff was arrested. And when they questioned him, they asked him, why did you give them that information? He said it was because he had grown up in the same neighborhood as the mobsters and twenty years ago they had given his sister money for a dentist visit. Twenty years ago.

My father nodded. There is a lot of loyalty in the Mafia. His voice was clear and smooth but he always spoke in a low register, as if not wanting it to carry.

There it was-that talk of loyalty again. Before I knew what I was saying, my voice rang out louder than anyones, clearly ringing out over the planes engines. And you have that kind of loyalty, too, right? You really know about loyalty. Oops. There was that anger bubbling up again, speaking for me. And it was laced with sarcasm, something Im not usually prone to.

Christopher turned and looked at me in the row behind him, no expression on his face. Maggie turned, too, eyebrows raised.

I leaned forward and squinted at him, irritated beyond control. What? I said. Why are you giving me that blank look like you dont know what Im talking about? It sounds to me like theres loyalty to the family-this Mob family-and obviously you had a lot of loyalty to your father, because you did all this to avenge what happened to him, and I respect that, but where was your loyalty to your family? The one you created with my mother?

My father said nothing. We stared at each other for a long time. I had no idea how to read him. Was he angry at me? Wounded by what I said? I couldnt tell.

Finally, he broke the stalemate. Are you ready to have this conversation, Isabel?

The plane launched itself into the air, and I nodded.


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