Here’s the thing…
Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.
I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.
But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.
Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.
A meeting with Nadia’s father
I’d met Nadia’s father once, but had seen him often on the streets.
He was a man to be feared, and never went anywhere without two of his footsoldiers beside him. Perhaps that was the downside of being a crime boss, you could not be out by yourself.
Benderby was the same, but he was better at disguising them as almost normal people. Cossatino’s henchmen looked exactly what they were, armed gorillas in cheap suits.
Vince was like his father, but with younger versions, the hangers-on from school days. It crossed my mind more than once how Nadia had separated him from his minders, but I imagine she was more resourceful than he was.
We said little on the way back to the car, there was little to say. I might have disagreed with her course of action, in fact, they needed to be taught a lesson, but I knew in doing so, it put a target on her back.
And, if anything happened to Vince, she have her father to answer to. In that, I don’t think that bothered her, because, unlike Vince, she could stand up to him. It would have taken more courage than I had for her to up and leave the way she had.
Of course, it didn’t take a lot to see why. As far as her father and Vince were concerned, she was dispensible, if or when a situation warranted it. Like working with Boggs and I had no doubt prompted Vince’s reaction.
Not far from the car was another, and as we approached, a man got out of the rear. Two others got out from the front. In the receding light, it was difficult to see who it was, but since the man had two minders it had to be either Benderby or Cossatino.
I looked at Nadia, and from her expression, she knew who it was. She stopped just short of the car, and I joined her.
“It’s my father,” she said.
“How did he know where you’d be?”
“A tracker on my car.”
So, she had intended he find her, but was it her intention that he find Vince? I doubted he would be interested in what happened to Alex.
She held up her hand, and said, “I wouldn’t come too close, Dad, not if your help wants to scrape what’s left of Vince off the side of the container.”
I looked closely at her hand, and it was her mobile phone. Would that convince him she meant what she said?
“You’re not that clever Nadia.”
He took two steps, his two minders pulled out their guns and were aiming them at us.
I saw her finger move, and a second later there was a sharp bang coming from the direction of the mall.
“The next one will go off next to Vince. Unlike what he did to Sam and I, he won’t have time to think about his death. Tell your goons to put away their guns and get back in the car, or else.”
Cossatino stopped and motioned to his men to lower their weapons. They did not put them away, nor did they look like they were going back to the car.
A test of wills. Who would crack first?
I wondered if she had wired an explosive in the container. I didn’t know much about electronics, but the steel walls of the container surely would have interfered with a cell phone signal. I guess it didn’t have to be in the container.
“I get it,” he said. “I should not have told Vince to take care of the problem. I didn’t consider he would take it literally. I’m sorry. We don’t have to do this.”
“Just the fact you think I’m a problem is bad enough, but getting Vince to deal with it?”
“That was a mistake. The solution was never to hurt you, or your friends.”
“He murdered Boggs, and for what? There never was any treasure, was there?”
“Maybe once, but no. The real treasure was the maps. People will pay a small fortune for them if they believe there’s a chance of finding a trove. We couldn’t have anyone upsetting the apple cart, but killing him wasn’t what I asked for. Vince and that fool Alex took it too far, and that’s on me.”
“Literal or not, you’ve made it very clear I don’t fit into this family. I never did, did I? You only tolerated Alex because it was a way of uniting the Cossatino’s and the Benderby’s, not because you wanted me to be happy.”
“There will always be a place for you, Nadia.”
“Not while Vince is alive. He won’t let it go, no matter what you tell him.”
“You leave Vince to me.”
“No. I can’t trust you either. So, here’s the deal. Sam and I are going back to Italy. I want no part of the family. But if I see you, Vince, or anyone else I don’t like hanging around, then Isobel and the twins will pay it.”
“What are you talking about…”
At that precise moment, his phone rang, a rather odd ring tone, like one specially set for a particular person, and he answered it without hesitation.
A few seconds later, the call ended.
“You have my word nothing will happen to you, or Sam, as long as I’m alive.” He motioned to his men to go back to the car. “Have a nice life Nadia.”
He glared at her for a few seconds then followed his men to the car. The car then drove off, leaving the two of us standing alone in the increasing twilight.
I had a hundred questions, but it didn’t seem to be the right time. I went with the most obvious, “What just happened?”
“My father thought he could clean up the mess he made using me as the scapegoat. Instead, he just confessed to, and confirmed Vince and Alex’s role in Boggs’s death.” She held up her phone. “Charlene was listening in to the confessions. The sheriff should have the two boys by now, and…”
In the distance we could hear the sirens of the police cars and see the flashing lights. Cossatino had driven into a trap.
“Isobel and the twins?”
“My father’s mistress. He’s been seeing her since before my mother disappeared. He cares more for them than me, even Vince if truth be told. It’s his one weakness and guarantees our safety. We are going to Italy?”
It might not have been the thought at the top of my list at that very moment, but it was almost a definite yes. There was nothing left here for me, and the last thing I wanted was Benderby as a proxy father.
The sirens had stooped, and the flashing lights become static. Nadia looked tired, perhaps more than a little sad at the way everything had turned put. I know I was.
As for what just happened, Nadia had surprised me. I think for a moment back at the mall she really was going to leave them to die, which I might have considered no better than her brother or Alex’s actions, but she really wasn’t like any of them, and I put that down to her mother.
Something else I hadn’t realized was that she had a different mother, but a memory from a long distant past came back when she had mentioned her to her father, something my mother had said, more or less to say she couldn’t understand what a woman like Francesca could see in a man like him.
Perhaps she had simply up and left when she finally realized the monster she married, but it didn’t explain why she left her daughter behind. Perhaps her father was guilty of that crime too.
“I think we both need a change, and I’ve never been out of the country.” I took her hand in mine, then gave her a hug.
She was shaking, whether it was the cold or the enormity of what just happened was debatable, but for the moment it was over. There would be new storms to face tomorrow, not the least of which would be to face my mother.
“Let’s go back to the hotel. You need to get some rest.”
© Charles Heath 2020-2022