This scene was originally in the manuscript after the scene in which Izzy, Maggie, Bernard and Theo get chased out of the hotel in Naples. But then I realized it would be giving away the dad’s existence earlier than I wanted.
An unraveling-of a riddle, a situation, a life-can be terrifying and yet also a beautiful thrill. In his life, he’d experienced all kinds of unraveling, and he knew now what he was feeling-sadness for what was about to be no longer, the thrill of potential, the potential of being discovered. The unraveling felt, in fact, like a wound, a clean one that was open, exposed.
There was a word in Italian-sbrogliare-that meant to disentangle, to sort things out. To him, that made it sound too simple, as if the thing that was tangled definitely needed to be undone. He didn’t believe that in all cases-didn’t believe it in this case, his case. The open wound was exposed, yes, and clean right now, that was true, but it had options other than to heal. It could become black and infected; it could lead to other worse injuries.
He walked slowly down a darkened street. Many people, he knew, were afraid to walk such a street by themselves. Napoli was not as dangerous as it once had been, but it was just as unpredictable. And yet he had learned many things over the years, and one of the best lessons was not to fear what wasn’t yet in existence.
And so he didn’t fear the thug who might jump from the shadows to attack him. In fact, he rarely feared for himself at all.
But for her, he feared.
Gone. She was gone. Where to, he had no idea. She was with her friend, and now, apparently, two men. One of the guys he knew of-Theo, the long-haired one, the guy who looked like he was in a rock band. He checked him out, and Theo was who he said he was. Everything about him was true-he started a company after leaving college early; it was one of the most successful software companies of its kind in North America. But the other guy? The large guy who appeared to be, from what he could tell, Filipino. Who in the hell was he? What did he mean to everything that was going on? Would he bring safety, or more danger?
He turned one corner, then another. So many corners in Naples, so many angles and wrong turns. All the establishments were closed, their front windows and doors boarded tight for the night.
A car door opened suddenly, and he immediately flattened himself against a wall. But it was only a family, home from a visit or a dinner. The couple removed their two young children from the car, opened a street side door and disappeared inside, not even looking at him.
He was used to being invisible. Over the course of years, he’d actually grown to enjoy it in a queer way. So he kept walking, and he was not afraid of those streets, whether he was seen or not.
But it made him sick, literally and physically sick, see how far the game had gone. It was never supposed to be like this. None of this was supposed to be happen. But then, nothing in life was ever happened like it was “supposed to happen”. And so he would have to change and adapt. Now that he’d lost her, he couldn’t protect her. And so, in the meantime, he would do the only thing he could-he would pray for her.
This partial scene was originally contained within the scene when Izzy sits outside eating soon after arriving in Italy.
We had planned to honeymoon in Spain, but Italy had been widely debated. We’d finally decided on the Costa del Sol in part because neither of us had been there. We wanted someplace new at the beginning of our new marriage. But there were so many things in Italy I would love to share with Sam now. As a lover of food and wine, he would be deliriously happy here, and I think of him every time I ask at a counter for a slice of soft goat cheese and I watch as they unwrap it from a cocoon of chestnut leaves. Sam would love the veal meatballs steeped in lemon and the paper thin slices of pink salmon rolled around a dainty puff of mozzarella foam.
Of course, it’s not just food that makes me think of Sam, The thoughts of him keep coming, I think, because I am experiencing a new emotion, one I’ve never felt before in my whole life.
I am jealous. And even worse, I am lonely.
It took me a while to figure out what this thing was-this hollowness in my chest, this ache in my belly, the tears that spring when nothing is sad, when usually, in fact, it is just the opposite. I got lost one day and turned the corner to see the sun hitting the dome of St. Peters in a silvery-green stream of light. I stopped right where I was standing, and I cried. Those tears streamed down my cheeks because the sight was so stunning and also in part because there was no one there to see it with me. This has never bothered me before. I don’t need another person to validate some experience I’m having. I don’t need a man or a friend to tell me, Yes, you have witnessed beauty.
When I get back to my room that day, I call Sam. I do the math, and I figure out with the time change it is eight in the morning Chicago time. Sam will be getting ready for work. He will be reading the Wall Street Journal on line and eating a protein bar, a cup of coffee next to the keyboard. He will have one more cup while he puts on his jacket, packs his bag that he slings cross-wise over his body until he gets off the el near his building, when he will take it off and carry it by the handle into his office.
The phone rings.
This scene was written in the first draft of Red White and Dead. At that point, I envisioned that Maggie’s mafia clients might help bring about Izzy’s downfall, getting asked by Dez Romano to find out where they were. Later, the book was changed so that Dez had men at the Centrale station in Naples looking for them when they arrived.
Maggie looked at her phone. She scrolled through it. “My secretary called five times while we were on the plane. I better call her back.”
We kept staring out the window while Maggie waited for her secretary to answer. “Rita,” she said, “what’s the fire?” She listened for a minute. “Ah, damn it. Again?” She put her hand over the phone, said to me, “I’ve got a dumbass client with two priors and two pendings. Arrested again.” She took her hand off the phone. “What’s the charge? Hmm, that’s new for him. Well, get Tom to go see him at 26th Street.” She listened some more. “No, I’m not back until Sunday, and I’m certainly not coming back for him.” She held the phone away from her head, and I heard her secretary’s raised voice rattling on. Maggie brought the phone back to her ear. “Fine, tell him he can call me.” She hung up.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
“The kid’s family is freaking. The uncle is insisting they talk to me. Won’t let any other attorney see the kid or talk to him, and he’s got to appear today.”
The cab driver turned onto a broad cobbled avenue. “The bay of Naples,” he said proudly. On one side of the avenue, the water sparkled blue and sailboats bobbed. The other side was lined with stately hotels, most of them with balconies looking onto the bay.
Maggie’s phone rang. She looked at the display then answered it. “Hello, Tony.” She listened. “Yes, I heard. Well, I’m in Italy so I can’t do much right now. I’m sorry about that, but Tom from my office can handle the bond hearing.” They spoke for a minute, Maggie reassuring the client that she would personally speak with the associate from her office and that she would be on the case as soon as she got back.
“Grand Vesuvius,” the driver said, “and we are here.”
Maggie finished up her conversation with her client as the driver parked.
This scene was originally in the Ischia section of the book where Izzy finds Elena. Initially, she was to meet Maurizio.
His blue cap hid his hair but not the coarse but attractive features of his face.
“This is Maurizio,” she said, gesturing at him. She spoke a few words in Italian that ended with “Isabel. My niece.”
“Ciao, ciao,” Maurizio said congenially. He stood and shook hands with Theo and me. He switched into English. “You have been enjoying Italia.”
“Very much,” I said, an automatic response. I didn’t mention getting chased by men with guns.
He and Theo started chatting. Theo, apparently, knew something about European soccer and soon, Maurizio was explaining about the different levels of soccer teams in Italy -Serie A, Serie B.
The next two scenes were at the end of the first draft of Red, White & Dead, when I was going to have Lucy be a more instrumental part of bringing down Dez Romano.
I thought of Lucy, and the phone call she made to me from her sister’s cell phone while I was in Italy. “From what you know and what you’ve seen, are you sure that Michael DeSanto is laundering money for Dez Romano or that he’s involved in some way with him.”
“Yes,” my father answered without hesitation.
“And from what you’ve seen, will jail time cure him of that?”
He put a finger on his chin and scratched it. “From what I’ve learned, guys like Michael DeSanto get into the System because they think it’s dangerous and cool. My guess is he’ll do his time, get out, and then get right back into it.”
“Does your cell phone work here?”
“Can I make a phone call without it being traced?”
My father handed it to me.
I called the number for Lucy’s sister. She answered with a soft, “Hello,” that sounded a lot like Lucy.
“Hi, this is a friend of Lucy’s. Izzy McNeil.”
“Oh, Izzy! She’s been worried about you. Hold on…”
In the background I heard the sister calling Lucy!, and then the footfalls of children.
Then Lucy was on the phone. “Izzy?” Wait just a second, I’m taking the phone outside. I heard a door opening and closing, then a few soft footfalls. “Okay, sorry about that. I don’t like to talk in the house anymore in case Michael…you know. Anyway, where are you?”
For a second, I wondered if I should answer her question. Lucy had said that Michael must have been taping her phone conversations or bugging the house, but if Lucy was truly back with Michael (and wanting so badly to make her marriage work) maybe she was the one who told Michael and Dez that we would be at the Nature Museum. It was Lucy, after all, who had begged me to meet her there that day.
“Izzy? Are you there?” Lucy said.
The sound of Lucy’s sweet voice made me realize how much I adored this girl and at the same time how much I hated how suspicious I’d grown over the last year. I trusted Lucy. I always trusted Lucy. And I wouldn’t go through life mistrusting everyone. I glanced at my dad, wondering if maybe that was how he had lived his life.
“I’m back in town,” I said. “I’m all right. How are you?”
She sighed. “I’ve been better. I’m just so glad to know you’re okay.”
“How are things with Michael?”
Another sigh. “I’ve almost hit my limit if you want to know the truth. He keeps saying he’s not working with Dez, or with anyone like that, but Izzy, he still has money. I mean, he lost the bank job and he’s getting sued by them, but he’s still paying our mortgage and he’s still buying new clothes and going out for big dinners.”
“You don’t know where he gets the money?”
“No. I’ve never handled the finances, and when I ask, he tells me not to worry about it. When I push he tells me he came into family money, but Izzy, I know his family. They don’t have this kind of cash.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m so confused. I still want our marriage to work. Or at least logically I want that.”
“Have you been talking to Mayburn?”
“No.” Her voice was so low I almost couldn’t hear her. “And it’s killing me.”
“Lucy, I’m just going to cut to the chase here. I need your help.”
“Of course. What kind of help?”
“Basically, I need some dirt on Dez Romano.”
“Oh, Izzy, I told you. He is a bad, bad guy. Just stay away from him.”
“I’d like to.”
“Does this have to do with Mayburn? I told him that I need to make these decisions on my own.” Her voice was louder now, bordering on irritation. “He thinks that-”
“Luce, this has nothing to do with Mayburn. It has to do with my brother.”
“I didn’t even know you had a brother.”
For some reason, that made me choke up. “Charlie. And Dez kidnapped him.” I told her the situation.
“Oh my God.” Lucy sounded shocked. “Oh my God,” she said again.
“We’re trying to get some information to lord over Dez so that we walk into the situation with some kind of bargaining power.”
“Sure, I get it. But how could I possibly help with that?”
“You could get information from Michael.”
“When he was arrested, they confiscated the laptop he used to have. He doesn’t even use a computer anymore now that he’s not working.”
“But he’s got information in his head.”
“He’s never told me anything, Izzy, and Michael always keeps everything close to the vest.”
“So if your marriage is going to work, he’d better start communicating, don’t you think?”
“It’s not that easy, Izzy.”
“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but giving it a try will help you as much as us. If he has information about Dez Romano, you’ll know he’s been lying to you. If not, and you believe him, then maybe it will be the push you need to really make an effort to have this marriage work out.”
Lucy went silent.
My dad glanced at me, waiting for the answer.
Finally she spoke. “Michael is supposed to be home any minute. Give me an hour.”
Thanks so much,” Lucy DeSanto said to her sister, who was piling her kids and Lucy’s too in the car.
“No problem. We’ll hit the playground, and we’ll go to the diner for lunch. I’ll keep them out of your hair for a few hours.”
“You’ve got the wheat pretzels, right? Because if they get fussy about the food at the diner, they’ll both eat those.”
“I’ve got the pretzels.” Her sister, who looked just like Lucy but taller and built more solidly, gave her a long look. “You know I think Michael is an asshole.”
“Give me a break, okay? We’ve been through this and-”
Her sister held up her hand. “I know, I know. What I was going to say was that I think he’s an asshole, but if you guys can put this back together, and he can make you happy again, then I’ll be happy. And I’ll even remove the asshole status from his name.”
Lucy laughed. “Thanks.”
When they were gone, Lucy headed back into her house, feeling excited about the time that she carved out for her and Michael. On one hand, it would force her to make an effort to be more intimate with him, something she needed to do anyway. She and Michael hadn’t fooled around in so long, that she almost couldn’t remember what it was like. These days, when she thought about sex, she could only see John Mayburn. Even when she thought of comfort, of friendship, it was John to whom her mind always returned.
Lucy climbed the steps to their bedroom, thinking that while Michael was in jail, she had come to think of John as her new family. But her kids deserved the chance to grow up with their father. And she reminded herself that she had been very much in love with Michael for a very long time in her life. Love like that couldn’t just disappear, she told herself. Not entirely. There must be something left of it they could salvage. And right now she going to try and find that something. If it went well, this time together might put them back on track. If it didn’t, if it appeared that Michael was still working with Dez, well…it made her stomach sick to think of it, but at least then, as Izzy had said, she would know.
She heard Michael’s car pull into the garage. She hurried up the final few stairs, wanting to change into some lingerie under her clothes, something she hadn’t done in a very long time.
Lucy pulled her t-shirt over her head, walked into her bedroom and went across the large room to the lingerie chest, which Michael had bought shortly after their honeymoon. It was filled with all those panties and negligees and nightgowns her girlfriends gave her for her bachelorette party. Lucy loved wearing sweet, sexy things like that and her use of the lingerie had lasted for a long while-for all the years when she and Michael had been truly happy.
Then Michael seemed to suffer a crisis of identity. Or maybe it was a crisis of family. He seemed angry with her and the kids, angry with himself. During the bleakest of times, he would lash out at her, calling her pathetic, saying she had no idea what the real world was like, making her feel like an idiot for being just a mother as he would say. But then Michael was promoted at the bank, and all of a sudden, he returned to life again, spending time with the kids, the black moods swept away.
But the distance that had grown between them remained part of the family, and she spent an awful two years, watching him strut around Chicago, driving his fancy car, building their fancy house, but feeling as if she was watching someone else, someone she didn’t know. Over the years, her lingerie was slowly stowed into the two bottom drawers of the chest.
She opened one of those drawers now and pulled out a pink silk camisole with matching panties. She took off her jeans, slipped on the lingerie and was putting her T-shirt and jeans back on, when Michael stepped into the room.
“Oh!” she said turning. “I didn’t hear you come upstairs.”
His eyes flicked up and down her body, and she saw something in those eyes that she hadn’t in so long-desire.
“Mary Ann took the kids out for a while,” she explained.
He nodded, the desire still evident. He looked at her, said nothing, as if he were waiting for her to call the shots. For once. It gave her an infusion of desire, too.
She pointed to the pale blue chaise lounge that sat in their bedroom’s bay window. “Have a seat.”
He did, and she slowly walked toward him.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“What do you think I’m doing?”
She smiled a little and then he did too, and then he chuckled. She hadn’t heard him laugh for so long. She forgot how much she loved his laugh-a hardy barrel-chested rumble. There was a shift in the air then, as if that moment of mild levity cut off a slice of their emotional distance, bringing them closer. She closed the physical distance, too. She took a few steps, and feeling bold sat on top of him, her legs on either side of his body, her arms around his neck.
“Mmmm,” he murmured. He pushed his face into her collar bone, inhaling. “You always smell so good.”
“I wasn’t sure if you remember that.”
He pulled back and looked into her eyes. Michael had such beautiful dark eyes, fringed by those long lashes.
“I never forgot that,” he said. “I’ve never forgotten anything about you. Thinking of you was what got me through…” He shook his head a little as if didn’t want to say the word.
“Jail,” she said.
“Yeah. And you’re why I’m determined to fight this thing and not go back. I want our family to stick together.”
She shifted a little bit so that she could see him even better. “But what if you don’t win. What if you have to go back to jail?”
“I’ll still take care of you. And then I’ll come back, and we will continue to be a family.”
She pursed her lips together. “Michael, I love you, you know that. I love our kids. But you’re asking a lot. You’re saying that you might go back to jail for what? Maybe three years, maybe ten years? And yet you want me wait for you during all that time?”
A look of anger flashed across his face. He gestured his hands up as if pointing at their house. “Haven’t I given you everything?”
“Yes,” she said. “But just because you’ve given us a lot, I don’t think that equates to me and the kids putting our lives on hold while you’re gone for god knows how long. You’re the one who gave us everything, but you’re also the one who got yourself into trouble.”
He looked away.
She put her hands on either side of his face and drew his gaze back to her. “Michael, I want to make this work. I do. I’m just trying to figure out how to make that happen.”
He shook his head. “You just don’t understand.”
“Well, then explain it so I can understand. Tell me what you’re going through. Tell me what’s happening. If I can understand, if I can help you, then maybe we can get our connection back, and then I might be able to wait. But I have to feel some connections first, before you leave me.” Her voice broke as she said the word ‘leave’. All those emotions rushed back up-all those fears about being left alone with two kids.
He grabbed her face and kissed her lips softly. “You know I’ll always take care of you.”
“I know, Michael. I know. But to be alone with the kids for what?…ten years and to not even have understood you, to not even understand what you did to get us into trouble? I just don’t think I can do that.”
He said nothing, his jaws moving as they did when he was thinking hard.
“Michael,” she continued, “I don’t even understand why we’re here in this position. I know you did some work for Dez or maybe not for him or…” She pushed herself further away starting to feel ridiculous in her pink lingerie. “It seems to me that you met Dez, and it was Dez who got us into trouble.”
“Lucy, I told you, Dez didn’t have anything to do with Advent Corporation. He was someone who referred me to their business, but what happened is not really his fault.”
She searched his eyes for signs of truth. He seemed to believe his words, which made her wonder if he was being duped or if she was. She wanted so badly to believe her husband, to have her life not be one full of questions and fear… She felt tears well in her eyes.
“Oh, babe, you know I hate it when you cry.” He said this kindly, as if it was breaking his heart.
“Michael, I have cried more in the last year than I have in my whole life.”
“I know. It kills me.” He grasped her face again and put a soft kiss on her lips. “I love you. You know that right?”
She nodded her head yes. “But Michael, I just don’t feel like I know you, anymore. I’m always wondering what you did, wondering who you are now, wondering wondering wondering.” Her voice got louder and louder.
He watched her, and seeing her upset seemed to stir something inside of him. He kissed again. “Let me tell you again. I love you.”
“I love you too.” She did. She would always love the man who gave her their children.
Another kiss from Michael, this one harder. “I love you. And I want you.” He said this last part under his breath, his voice a sexy growl, and it made her want him, too.
She kissed him back. Right then, all she wanted was to have sex. Sex with her husband, sex that would obliterate those questions and fears.
She scrambled at Michael’s clothes, tearing them off then stood up and took her own off. From the chaise lounge, he looked at her, waiting. In that position, naked and with an erection, with her standing, with both of them waiting for her decisions-whether they would have sex right now, whether she would stay with him, whether she would make this work-she saw suddenly that she had more power than she thought and it filled her with an intense drive. She sat down on him and filled herself with Michael. He cried out a little and then dug his fingers into the skin of her back, pulling her onto him even tighter.
She rocked up and down, slowing when she wanted, rocking harder or faster when she wanted that. She wasn’t thinking about Michael or what he’d done or hadn’t done. She was thinking only of herself, and as she did so, some of the connection between her and Michael seem to flood in around their bodies. She realized that maybe her subsuming her own wishes, her own powers, to those of Michael’s was as big a problem as his actions. But she could take that power back, she could make this-this act between them, this connection-happen on a regular basis. She was consumed with hope then, which only made her want him more, and so she continued to rock on him harder and harder and faster, slowing down once and then harder and harder again and again until they both cried out.
When they were done, they were both trembling and wet with sweat. They held each other, their bodies shaking and sticking, staying together.
Finally he looked up at her. “You’re amazing.”
“I haven’t seen that smile for a while”
Her smile dimmed.
“Sorry, I just meant…”
She shook her head. “No, it’s okay. I know what you mean.”
“It’s not okay hearing what you’ve dealt with. You can handle more than I give you credit for.”
“Thanks.” Her voice was soft but confident. She felt worthy of the compliment.
“I want to be partners with you again, truly partners.”
“I’d like that.”
Something flowered inside of her, the reminder of the way she and Michael used to be, the reminder of the happy contented bubble that had surrounded them for so many years during their initial family stages. They could capture that again, and if she continued to hold on to that feeling of confidence, of worthiness, then she would have some control of her life, her relationship, her family. This could work.
She kissed him.
They nuzzled each other reminding Lucy of her childhood in Connecticut when she used to see horses nuzzling over a salt block.
After a few minutes, she sighed, sat back and looked at Michael. She felt some awe in that gaze of hers, felt the shift back to the way things used to be.
“Don’t kill me,” he said. “But I have to get ready to go out.”
She tried not to appear deflated, not to feel that way. “Where are you going?”
“I can’t…” He had started to say, I can’t say, but he caught himself. “I’m sorry, Luce. I’m sorry. I’ve been doing that for a long time.”
She felt her head bow a little in acknowledgment and understanding, said nothing.
“Really,” Michael said. “I’m sorry. You deserve to know what’s going on with my life, because it’s not just my life, it’s yours. I’m going to see Dez.” He looked at her, as if waiting for her reaction.
“Well we don’t actually have an appointment. I’m not even sure where he is, but I’m going to find him because I want to go see him. I want to demand that he tell me a few things. So I guess in a way I understand what you’re talking about here, wanting to know what’s going on, because I feel that way, too, with Dez.”
“Okay,” she said. “I get it. But Dez is the one who got you in this trouble. Don’t you think you should stay away from him?”
Michael leaned around her, grabbed his shirt off the arm of the chaise.
“You said you were staying away from him,” Lucy said.
“I would but listen, Lucy, Dez is taking care of me.” He waved around their house. “I have questions for him yeah, but Dez is why we have this place. Dez is in some ways why we have this great life.”
“A great life that you’re about to leave for jail.”
He shook his head. “He’s helping me out with the case. I just want more specifics on that. And even if I go to jail, Dez will always take care of me. He’ll take care of you, and our family.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because he’s told me. And in the System your word is your word.”
“The system? What do you mean?”
He shook his head. “Listen Luce, I’m going to nail him down on a few things, but what I’m trying to tell you is that you can trust Dez. I can trust him. We can trust him.”
“But you said that Dez had nothing to do with Advent Corporation. So if he’s had nothing to do with that, how can he help you at all with this case?”
Michael looked up at her. She shifted a little and fell to the side so that they were now sitting face to face, not her looking down at him, but two people, husband and wife, looking directly at each other, stripped of all their clothes and of everything else.
That moment seemed to go on and on, and in that moment, Michael lost his bravado, the shell he’d worn around her for years now.
“Okay, hon,” he said, “let me tell you how it is.” He sounded like he used to, when he used to want her opinion, used to seek her out about everything in his life.
Lucy said nothing, just nodded and placed the side of her head against the chaise lounge as if waiting for someone to read her a story.
Michael told her how Dez had started Advent Corporation, a shell corporation, he said, which he needed because of some long-ago, bullshit debt that still stained his record. He told her how Dez had then removed himself from the paper trail concerning the corporation, how he’d enlisted Michael to use the funds from Advent to help him start another business. When Michael escaped official jail time, he continued, and that’s what everyone expected to happen, then Michael would be Dez’s right hand man. Dez had brought them so much already, Michael pointed out, and he would continue to bring them so much more. It’s just would require some waiting.
Lucy said nothing at first then she began to ask questions. As they talked, she died a little because now she was hearing the truth. Michael was involved with Dez, and Dez was involved with some kind of shady “system” that involved shell corporations and the funneling of money, and although she tried to point it out numerous times, it appeared Michael almost didn’t understand the illegality of it all.
She didn’t let her mind register that her husband, for all his original bravado, was not as confident or competent or intelligent as he had always appeared. She did, however, register the fact that he had lied to her, for years, and with his incompetence and his lying, he had sunk them all, put his family in a black hole from which it could take years to get away from. The more he talked, the more she felt despair beckoning. This was not the minor corporate messiness she had once thought. This was huge.
She tried not to think of what this would mean for the kids. Would they be ‘stained’, as he’d said Dez was, by what their father had done? She didn’t let herself go toward those ramifications at all, she just veered to the questions that Izzy had told her to ask. And within ten minutes, she had answers to them all.