Earlier that day and as soon as Delora and Irving had known that Vin and Luna would be coming for dinner, the older couple had ushered the rest of their family members out of the house. Of course, everybody had complained, arguing no end, sulking and whining. All of them had wanted to spend time with the couple after so many weeks apart, catching up, more so after they had known that Vin and Luna were back together and that they weren’t going to divorce after all.
However, Delora and Irving hadn’t wanted any of them around, least of all the kids. Things might get ugly and there was no way they would allow Adiana and Chris to be within earshot of the things that could end up being said, or exposed to the invisible awkward tension that, without doubt, would be felt.
Kids were easily affected and they missed very little of everything that happened around them, catching even the most subtle hints when adults thought they weren’t paying attention. Delora and Irving considered that there was no need for that, and it wasn’t as if Adiana, Chris and the rest of the family couldn’t see Vin and Luna the next day, anyway.
So far, the dinner had gone better than Vin had expected. No uncomfortable silences or awkward situations had taken place, yet anyway. Quite the opposite, the two couples had shared a pleasant time, talking and catching up on everyone’s projects.
Consciously avoiding any reference to more delicate matters, the conversations had mainly been about ‘ONE RACE Global Film Foundation’ and its future projects, which Irving had been supervising first hand, assuming the leading role, contacting people interested in taking part and making sure that everything was done the right way. But they had also talked about Valentino’s documentary and Vin’s and Luna’s future projects.
Vin’s parent’s place. New York. (later that night)
Gathering plates and glasses, Vin glanced at his mother as he helped her to clear the table. Wisely, Irving had steered Luna out of the house with an excuse so mother and son had the chance to talk alone, but also so he himself could talk with Luna.
However, the minute Vin entered the kitchen and found his mother leaned against the counter, staring at him, he knew that the moment he had been fearing the most had unavoidably come, yet there was something wrong with the picture. The fact that there was no trace of the pot of coffee or the cups placed on the table only confirmed for Vin his more dreaded suspicions. This chat with his mother wouldn’t be like any other, he already knew.
“Ma, I wanted to tell you that…”
Delora didn’t let her son finish whatever he was going to say. “Please, take a seat, Mark.” Her voice sounded suspiciously warm and Vin swallowed hard, obliging without hesitation but he tried once more.
“Listen, Ma, I know you’re very disappointed and…”
“Don’t.” Once more Delora cut her son off causing Vin’s eyes to widen completely. She looked surprisingly calm, shockingly relaxed. Not even a frown crumpling her forehead and Vin felt a chilling shiver running up his spine.
He didn’t like to see his mother this way, not one damn bit. It was unnatural and almost frightening to watch her standing a few feet from him, watching him without saying anything.
Seconds passed and turned to minutes, long agonizing minutes, and still she remained in silence, her gaze fixed on his, as though she was deciding what to do, or worse, what to say.
Vin knew his mother wasn’t fond of making scenes, acting like a drama queen, crying and yelling and throwing things around. It wasn’t in her nature to raise her voice to get the full, undivided attention of whoever was in front of her either. It was enough to stay completely still, staring at the person who she wanted to talk.
It was disconcerting and unnerving, and all of a sudden Vin felt as though he was a little kid again, and wanted nothing more than to crawl under the table. He wasn’t scared but terrified of whatever his mom would say when she was ready to say it.
Just when he was about to open his mouth again to start apologising like a mad man, Delora finally closed the distance between them, taking a seat across from him and he snapped his mouth shut without uttering a sound.
“I don’t know what you told Luna to forgive you and, honestly, it’s none of my business, but I want for you to know that I love you more than my life,” she started, reaching out and cupping her son’s face with one hand.
Without thinking, Vin pressed his cheek against her hand, relishing in the warm gesture, feeling comforted and yet knowing that the worst was still to come.
“God knows the only thing I always wished was for you to find someone like Luna and it makes me happy that you both decided to save your marriage but,” Delora paused, meeting her son’s eyes and plunged ahead. “I will not forgive you so easily, Mark, not this time. You’re going to have to prove to me that you changed for real first.”
Vin felt his throat closing fast with an invisible knot and swallowed forcefully, but remained in silence. He knew that through his thoughtless, selfish actions he had made his mother relive a very painful part of her past. He had acted the very same reprehensible way his biological father had. So even though his mom’s words hurt more than a kick in his teeth, Vin knew that he deserved it and then some.
Without thinking, Vin took his mother’s hand and kissed it. “I will do it, ma. I’ll make you be proud of me again,” he said quietly, never averting his gaze from hers. He meant it and she knew it, but only time would tell if he would be able to stick to his praiseworthy goal.
“I’m very proud of you. I knew you wouldn’t end up throwing in the towel,” Irving smiled warmly, pulling Luna to him.
Luna chuckled sadly. “I really wanted to do that.”
“I know,” he kissed her temple, “but that would have been too easy and we both know you aren’t the kind who takes the easy way out, huh?”
“That’s true,” Luna grinned, resting her head on his shoulder. “I’ve missed the hell out of you,” she whispered, closing her eyes.
“Yet you didn’t even phone us,” he replied. There wasn’t accusation in his voice but pain.
Luna snapped her head up. “Irving…I…I was hurting so bad…and I was so lost that…” her lower lips quivered and Luna bit it hard, feeling the familiar sting of tears. “I’m sorry I hurt you both…” Luna blinked away her blurry vision, swallowing forcefully.
Vin’s father smiled in understanding. “I know that, sweetheart, but we were your family too, we are your family, Luna, and we love you as much as we love Mark,” as he spoke, Irving lifted his hand, wiping away the hot tears that had ended up spilling down her cheeks. “So, next time Mark does some shit, please, do not shut us out, okay? Because we don’t deserve to pay for his sins and, no matter what, you will always have a home here with us.”
Deeply touched by Irving’s words, Luna nodded. “Will you two forgive me someday?”
Irving chuckled. “We love you too much to bear you any grudge, Luna,” he smiled warmly and then his smile turned into a wicked grin as he continued. “Besides, we are too lazy to do that,” he winked causing Luna to giggle through her tears.
They both fell into a comfortable silence, until Luna cleared her throat. “So you are going to Santo Domingo tomorrow?”
“Hm-mm,” Irving nodded. “It seems that Rafael Escudero owns this huge warehouse his brother has been using to store away the surplus of published books while waiting to sell them on the Internet,” he explained, lazily stroking Luna’s shoulder. “He wants me to have a look at it. Rafael thinks that it would be a great place to set the Studio for our foundation students.”
“That’s wonderful,” Luna’s voice sounded a bit sleepy and Irving glanced down at her. She was falling asleep in his arms.
“It is. I can’t wait for the project to start for real,” Irving couldn’t hide his excitement, he didn’t want to though. He was crazy about having the chance to teach young directors. Irving knew there were a lot of talented boys and girls without economic resources that hadn’t been given a chance to show what they were capable of. They reminded him of his son.
“I’m sure it will be a success, dad,” Luna replied without thinking and Irving’s heart skip a beat at hearing Luna calling her ‘dad’.
“I like the sound of that,” he said quietly, squeezing Luna’s shoulder. It meant a lot more than anyone might guess, after all Luna’s father had disowned his own daughter months ago and hadn’t bothered to return her calls at all.
“Love you, dad,” she smiled, hugging her tightly.
Irving felt tears of joy threatening to be spilled and blinked fast. “Love you, baby,” he replied, kissing her temple.
(the following day)
Sheila Harley mansion. LA
“I’m the only one to blame,” Rose sniffled, drying her tears.
Violet smiled sadly. “That’s not true, Rose, you couldn’t do anything; it wasn’t your fault.”
Rose shook her head ‘no’. “It was my entire fault, Violet, I should have known…” her voice faltered as a fresh wave of tears fell down her cheeks. “All I wanted was for Sheila to make a reality of her dreams and…I just turned a blind eye to everything that was going on…I failed her and I failed you…I’m not a good mother…”
“You’re a good mother, Rose, you did what you considered was the right thing to do to protect your daughter, but,” Violet squeezed the hand of her long time friend, blinking her own tears away. “We both made a mistake, not allowing our daughters to enjoy their childhood they way they should…if you are to blame, then so I am.”
“I created a monster,” Rose whispered under her breath. “That girl out there,” she looked at Sheila through the window; the girl was across the spacious terrace of her new house, yelling at someone on her cell phone while pacing back and forth like a wild enraged animal. “She’s not my Sheila anymore…” she looked down, at the bandage wrapped around her wrist.
The night before, Sheila had thrown a tantrum and, blind with rage, she had ended up hitting her own mother when Rose had tried to calm her down. It hadn’t been the first time that Sheila had done such a horrible thing, but last night it had been worse than ever.
Sheila had been furious after watching on Perez Hilton’s webpage a picture of Vin and Luna, holding hands and kissing each other while talking a walk in Central Park. The picture had been taken without the couple being aware, which had only infuriated Sheila even more. The text ‘Perezito’ had added under the picture was what had sent the young actress to the edge.
They are sooooo together!
Has-been actor Vin Diesel and his ‘porn with plot writer’ wife Luna are giving love a second chance. Yeah, I know this isn’t the second one but who keeps counting?
Yesterday, paparazzi caught the couple while they were having a walk together in New York, holding hands and playing tonsil hockey no less! Aren’t they adorable?
It seems that Diesel left the shoot of his upcoming fiasco movie ‘Babylon AD’ to come back home (He should have never left his wife to begin with) to ask for forgiveness and it worked! (I bet that piece of trashy skank actress Sheila Harley thought Mrs. Diesel was history)
That’ll teach you, Sheila. Do not fuck with us Latinas, bitch!
A source really close to the couple confirmed to Perezito that Mr&Mrs Diesel will go to a marriage guidance counselor (about damn time, you two) and that they are not splitting apart.
I give Diesel two months before he fucks up again. Wanna bet?
Letting out a heavy sigh, Rose returned her attention to Violet. “She will be okay, right?”
Violet smiled sadly. “We’ll both make sure that she receives the best care.” Her voice sounded firm yet gentle.
Nodding, Rose looked once more at her daughter who now was trashing the terrace, breaking every single flowerpot around. She needs help, I can’t do this anymore. A wave of fresh tears rolled down Rose’s cheeks, unrestrained and, without averting her teary gaze from her daughter, she asked. “What do you need me to do?”
Greenwich Village. NY
Switching off the car’s engine, Vin let out a heavy sigh, staring ahead of him, at the basketball court surrounded by high honeycomb aluminum fence across the street. “Val and I used to spend a lot of time playing in there.” His voice sounded merely above a whisper, as though his mind was years away, lost in memories.
Luna followed his line of vision and saw that Valentino was there, just like Val’s mother had told them, and that he was playing with some kids while others were sitting along the fence watching, cheering or chatting. Her lips spread in a small smile as she pictured Vin and Val as kids, playing basketball the same way these kids were doing now.
It reminded Luna of a picture she had kept since the day Renee had given it to her for her birthday. Back then, Renee had ordered a customized calendar with pictures of Vin that had never been published before. Among the pictures Renee had selected, there had been one showing Vin reading a book. However, it was now when Luna realized that the basketball court that picture showed was the one they both were looking at.
“Is that one the same court in which you shoot the scenes in ‘Strays’?” Luna asked quietly as she reached out, taking his hand in hers.
“Yeah,” Vin nodded, absentmindedly as he squeezed her hand in his.
He had wanted to remain as faithful as possible to his origins and hadn’t felt like hiding where he came from or who he was. In fact, all the extras had been people from his neighborhood that Vin had known back in those days or friends.
“It was in this very same place where Val and I made a promise to each other. That we would stick together come hell or high water and that nothing and no one would tear us apart, not even ourselves,” he chuckled sadly before continuing. “I broke that promise. I betrayed him and our friendship. I failed him, turning my back to him…” At this point, Vin turned his face, looking at his wife. “How am I going to get Val to forgive me, Luna, when I can’t even forgive myself?”
Her free hand reached out and cupping the back of his head, Luna pulled Vin to her until their foreheads were pressed together. “Don’t give up, Vin, please, you can work things out with Val. I know you’ll find a way to reach him.”
“I wish you were there with me when I talk with him,” he whispered, tilting his head back to see her eyes.
“This is something you have to do alone, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed,” she grinned, winking.
“Oh, man,” Vin screwed up his face a little. “He’s gonna beat the shit out of my sorry ass, isn’t he?” he groaned.
“Yeah, but he won’t punch you in the face and won’t hit you below the belly either, he gave me his word,” Luna laughed a little.
“Protecting what you love most, baby?” Vin knit a brow, mock-glaring at her.
Luna grinned. “Well, I like your nose just fine and this gorgeous cock of yours,” wantonly, she stroked him over the fabric of his jeans, causing Vin to inhale sharply in time with his cock stirring within the confines of his jeans. “Belongs to me, so I don’t want any of them being harmed in any way,” her grin vanished and she grew serious, kissing his lips softly. “Now, show me the man you are for real and go in there to make amends with your brother, okay?”
“Okay,” Vin kissed her and, taking a deep breath, he got out of the car, heading directly towards the basketball court.
As he got closer, Vin could hear Val saying, as he gasped for air, that he was so done and the kids whining, begging him to keep playing. Breathless, Val promised the kids that he would play a bit more but that first he needed to be able to use his lungs again. His reply elicited a round of heartfelt laughter and, chuckling, Vin closed the distance between them.
Valentino was rummaging in his bag, searching for his energy drink and a towel when he felt someone standing behind him.
“You always had a way with kids, Morales.”
Val’s moves faltered for a fraction of a second and, picking up the towel, he slowly turned around, facing Vin. “I heard you were back,” he wiped his sweat and proceeded to open the energy drink bottle. “How long will you staying this time?” his voice sounded casual yet a big ragged but the double meaning in his words didn’t go unnoticed on Vin.
Val snorted, as he took a seat on the bench. “That word is way too big for you, man,” he muttered, glancing around and then gulped half the contents of the bottle in one long pull. The few kids that had been within earshot had wisely moved further away in seconds.
Vin let out a heavy sigh. “May I?” he gestured for the bench and in response Val shrugged his shoulders. Taking Val’s gesture as a ‘yes’, Vin climbed on the bench, taking a seat in the back. “I know that I ruined our friendship and that nothing I could say would make you trust me again, but…I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry I failed you, man,” he spoke quietly even though no one could hear them.
Val didn’t show any sign that he was paying attention to his friend’s words but he didn’t give any indication that he would move from where he was either. Instead, he kept staring at the kids as they played basketball.
Taking that as a cue to keep talking, Vin obliged. “I know I fucked up big time and I don’t expect for you to forgive me, but I’d like for you to give a chance to explain myself,” he stared at Val, willing him to say something, anything but the Dominican remained in complete silence.
Val was deliberately making it hard for Vin and Vin knew it. It appeared as though Val was ignoring him though, yet he still wasn’t moving, so Vin forged ahead, doing his best to put order within his thoughts. There were many things he wanted to say to Val and wasn’t sure where to start.
“What I told you that day at my place…that you would never outshine me and all that shit about you being a loser…I didn’t mean it…any of it,” he ignored Val’s snort and continued, “Even if I had meant it I had no right to say it. It wasn’t only cruel and mean but also a big fat lie…and you could never know how much I wish I could take back those fucking words, Valentino…”
Val gulped the rest of his drink and stared down at the court ground. He didn’t say one word nor make a sound, so Vin went on in spite of the fact that he felt as though he was giving a speech in the middle of the desert with no one else around listening but himself.
“You are a very talented actor and you did a motherfucking great job playing ‘Miguel’. I should have put pressure on the Studio so they didn’t end up dubbing you, but honestly, I didn’t care enough, Valentino. I was too consumed in my own shit to give a damn about anything else because, just like you said, I’m an egocentric bastard,” Vin paused, frowning deeply, thinking about how Valentino had felt back then.
It pissed him off that he hadn’t been able to stand in his friend’s shoes. Now Vin regretted it, with everything in him, but it seemed that it was too late already, didn’t it? An idea popped within his head and Vin stored it. He would take care of that as soon as he was back in LA, but first he needed Val to forgive him, or at the very least to show some sort of willingness to save their friendship.
“The things you said to me…that I was jeopardizing your career…” Vin shook his head, “I couldn’t believe you distrusted me in such a way, so I struck back with the first shit that came to my mind that I knew would hurt you as much as your words had hurt me.”
This caused Val to lift his face, staring ahead of him but didn’t say anything in return. His shoulder muscles bunched a little as, absently, he started playing with the now empty bottle of energy drink in his hands. Better if he kept them busy, otherwise Val wasn’t sure what he would do with them.
Nevertheless, Val knew that Vin was being sincere and understood that, even though Vin liked to brag about the power he held in business, the reality was that Vin Diesel was just a marionette whose strings had been pulled by Marcela and others for years. Vin’s biggest mistake had been to let the wrong people manipulate him, pretending everything was fine so that he could make a reality of his most ultimate dreams. It hadn’t been Vin’s entire fault though, and Val had to admit that Vin had done what he could so his friend, his brother, had a chance to show his own talent.
At that time Val himself had been so frustrated because he had been powerlessly watching how yet once more a new chance was slipping between his fingers, and so angered with himself because he hadn’t been able to get Renee pregnant, that he had directed his frustration and anger towards Vin, without even stopping to consider that he himself was to blame as well. Then Luna had had the accident and everything had gone to hell, as though a huge snowball out of control that had ended up dragging them all, sweeping away everything in its path.
Vin watched how Val seemed to be lost in thought and, silently, he hoped his friend was seriously considering giving him a new chance. However, Vin suspected that Val wouldn’t forgive him so easily; he already knew he was going to have to work his ass off to earn Val’s trust again. Vin wasn’t done though, the hardest part had yet to be dealt with. So, taking a deep breath, Vin let out the air slowly and braced himself for Val’s reaction at his next words.
“The night Luna had the accident…” Vin’s voice faltered when Val snapped his head up, glaring at him in a much similar way that he had done at the hospital that night.
The vision of Val’s clothes stained with Luna’s blood, his bruised face stricken with dry tears and his eyes flashing him with pure unrestrained anger popped within Vin’s head and he swallowed hard, past a huge lump that showed up out of nowhere and that, suddenly, was choking him. Doing his best to find his voice, Vin cleared his throat.
“I can’t imagine how you felt…but I know you did everything you could so she didn’t end up losing the baby…” behind his sunglasses, Vin’s eyes brimmed with tears and he blinked away his blurry vision, causing them to roll down his cheeks. “I…I never had the chance to thank you in person for saving my wife’s life, Valentino.”
Vin had wanted to, but Val had made sure to be out of reach. Vin suspected that Val had done that for his own sake more than for Vin’s, so that he didn’t end up doing something he would regret later.
Val felt his own eyes stinging with tears and took a ragged breath, blinking them back. Before he realized what he was doing, Val started talking. “I tried to get her out of the car, but the fucking seat-belt was hooked…she was caressing her belly, talking with the baby…” Val leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. He did his best to stop the angry tears from being shed. It was of no use and Val gave up as he went on. “I couldn’t do shit…” he snorted bitterly, forcing the air through his lungs. “All I did was to pray like a damn moron, begging God to save them both…”
Hesitantly, Vin reached out, placing his hand onto Val’s shoulder. “You did what you could, man,” he whispered in a strangled voice.
Val snarled, shoving Vin’s hand off. “You should have been there, fucker, not me,” he muttered through clenched teeth as his hands balled in fists. “If you had acted like a man instead of like an egocentric, immature asshole, Luna wouldn’t have tried to kill herself.”
It was out before Val could stop himself and Vin’s eyes widened completely. “What?” he asked, shocked to his core. He didn’t know that.
Val looked down, cursing himself silently; he should have known better that telling Vin. But he deserved to know how much his selfish actions had hurt Luna for real. How desperate, lost and guilt-ridden Luna had felt that she had wanted to end her own life so that she could stop suffering. Of course, he wouldn’t tell Vin that Luna had deliberately crashed the car. That was a secret Val would take to his grave.
“After I knew you wouldn’t be around anymore I went to visit her,” Val heaved a hard sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose and continued. “I found Luna in the bathroom. She had a piece of glass in her hand and tried to cut her wrist with it,” he shook his head, doing his best to dissolve the vision of Luna’s wrist bleeding. “She begged me to let her die…she just wanted to stop hurting.”
Oh, God…Luna…Vin shut his eyes, cursing himself silently. He knew he had hurt his wife, badly, but never thought Luna would have wished to be dead. She was so damn strong…it never occurred to him and that was the key. Vin had always taken for granted that Luna would be able to face anything that came her way without even blinking.
“…A tough woman like Luna has a heart as fragile as fine glass and even if sometimes she acts like a bitch, you have to remember that it’s just a way to protect herself from being hurt by guys like you…”
His mother’s words popped within his head and Vin leaned forward, removing his sunglasses. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that shit alone, Val. I will never be able to compensate you for taking care of Luna, for making sure she was okay.”
Val snorted. “You better stop fucking around with her or I’ll beat the shit out of you!” He snapped and he wasn’t joking, Vin knew it. “And one more thing,” Val turned his face, locking eyes with Vin. “If I ever had the slightest suspicion about you laying a hand on her again or putting her life at risk, I swear on everything that is holy that I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure that yours turns into a living hell, Diesel.”
Vin gulped but nodded ‘yes’; he had no doubt about that. Val wasn’t the kind of guy who would make threats lightly. “I won’t do that shit to her again, I swear to you.”
Val narrowed his eyes but nodded. He knew Vin enough to see that he had changed, if a little bit. “You better honor that promise, man.”
“I’ll do so,” Vin replied with complete conviction.
Val nodded and returned his attention to the game. For a long moment both men watched the kids playing without saying anything to each other, until Val broke the silence. “Where’s Dave?” He asked without averting his gaze from the game.
Vin blinked, momentarily taken aback by Val’s question. “He’s still in Prague. Oliver and I worked a way to leave him behind so I could talk with Luna without having the fucker tagging along,” he smirked a little. “He’ll be here in two days tops though.” His smirk vanished as his brows drew down.
“You gotta get rid of that fucker once and for all,” Val muttered.
“I know that, man, but I’m not sure how to do that, exactly,” Vin sighed hard, rubbing his forehead. “Luna had this crazy plan but first we gotta get Joe to help us.”
“Joe? What the hell has Joe got to do with any of this?” Val knit his eyebrows, looking at Vin and it dawn on him. “The fucking video.”
Vin averted his eyes, embarrassed and nodded.
“You think Joe would take part, offering himself?” Val’s voice sounded concerned. It would be the perfect solution because, unlike Vin’s career, Joe’s wouldn’t end up being affected. Quite the opposite, the free publicity might end up helping Joe. After all, there were a load of actors like Vin Diesel but stunt doubles like Joe? Not likely.
“I don’t know, man,” Vin’s shoulders hung down, as though he was carrying a heavy burden, which he was. “‘Sides, It’s not like Joe owes me shit.”
Val sighed hard but said nothing. He knew better than anyone else what had happened that night in the storeroom of ‘Tunnel’, after all Valentino had been the one calling the paramedics since Vin had been so mad he hadn’t been able to think straight and Chichi had had a nervous breakdown. The rest of the people that had been around at the time had been too wasted or high to even form a coherent thought, let alone to give a hand.
“Maybe we could talk with this private detective, James Haltom. Luna gave me his number,” Val frowned a bit. He had already phoned Mr. Haltom and had agreed they would meet soon, so they could talk about the best way to start searching for Val’s father.
“The detective Luna hired?”
“What?” Val blinked, disconcerted. Luna hadn’t mentioned that she knew the guy in person, just that her lawyer had given her James’ number. It explained many things Luna seemed to know about many people.
Vin chuckled. “Luna hired a detective to find something, anything she could use as a leverage against Richard Hopkins in case he decided that the Studio wasn’t interested in shooting ‘Hannibal’ anymore,” he paused pinching the bridge of his nose, then continued. “But, she also entrusted him to find ‘skeletons’ of others, including Marcela, Sheila and me.”
“And how do you know that?” Val narrowed his eyes.
Vin shrugged his shoulder. “Luna told me last night.”
“Coño…” Val whispered under his breath. “And what did he find?”
Vin sighed hard. “Everything.”
Val’s eyebrows shot up. “Do you mean he found out about Chichi too?” he asked slowly.
Vin nodded. “Yeah, and Luna went to meet him in person.”
“¡Coño!” Val winced.
“Yeah,” Vin let out a heavy sigh. “Chichi was the one telling Luna about what happened to Joe that night at Tunnel.”
Val’s mind went into overdrive. Dave was a smart fucker, he always took care in covering his tracks. Everybody knew he had been trafficking drugs for years at the club, yet no one had said shit and that wouldn’t change. Dave’s old buddies wouldn’t betray him, mostly because Dave would have made sure to have something to use against them, just in case.
“That won’t serve for shit. Dave’s buddies won’t betray that fucker,” Val muttered, still a bit lost on thought. “Sides, an eternity has passed since then, no one will give a shit about a homosexual being raped in a nightclub, not after so many years, anyway, and I seriously doubt that Joe will want people knowing.”
“You’re right, but I’m hoping Dave’s ex-girlfriend will give us a hand,” Vin’s lips spread in a small evil grin, causing Val to blink disconcerted.
“Ex-girlfriend,” Vin corrected Val. “Giselle, the chick that appears in that fucking video. She dated Dave for almost one year before he dumped her right before I started shooting the movie,” Vin answered calmly. “Luna phoned James Haltom last night and asked him to go pay her a visit. He told Luna he would phone her as soon as he had talked with Giselle.”
Val shook his head. “Dave’s gonna get very pissed off, man. I don’t like it,” he met Vin’s gaze. “What you gonna do if the detective finds something?”
“Nothing,” Vin replied. “I’ll give whatever he finds to Simon, so he takes care of Dave.”
“Good,” Val nodded his approval. “So what about Joe then?”
“I gotta go talk with him all the same,” Vin frowned deeply. “I owe him an apology.”
‘Taboo’ Nude Resort & Spa Hotel. Palm Springs. LA
James sipped from his glass of water, savoring it. To him it tasted of water, plain and simple. Why it was so unique that he had been charged as though it was a glass of the finest wine, he didn’t get. It was just bottled water, for Christ’s sake!
Of course, he wasn’t in a dive, but in one of the most exclusive brothels across the area. That it had been disguised as a ‘Resort & Spa’ didn’t mean shit. It was still a brothel, if a luxurious one whose clientele was mainly successful businessmen, politicians, celebrities and the rich of all kinds, including those that had amassed their fortunes doing not so clean deals.
Some of the faces around he recognized, that went unsaid, but James knew that he better play dumb for all he was worth or he would end up getting himself in deep shit.
“Sir, would you be so kind as to follow me, please? You’re suite is ready.”
“Thank you,” James smiled, getting to his feet and followed the gorgeous blonde across the bar and directly to the other side of the spacious foyer that led to a set of cabins, spread around a well-tended garden full of palm trees and all kinds of exotic plants.
She was all curves and she swung gracefully. If James was hetero, he would get a hard on just watching the slow cadence of her hips. Good thing he had said so when asked about his preferences, otherwise they would have sent a gorgeous stud in the blonde’s place, and that definitely would have end up causing James to embarrass himself.
The fact that she was as naked as the day she had been born didn’t seem to bother the patrons around. Quite the opposite, since everybody was as naked as she herself was, including James.
They reached the cabins and the beautiful blonde came to a stop. “I hope you enjoy a pleasant stay among us, sir,” she smiled politely and handed James his blank card.
“Thank you, miss,” James smiled in return and watched the blonde as she made her way back to the main building. She seemed to be some sort of tour guide or a public relation’s officer, whose only job was to escort the exclusive clientele, seeing that they found their way around.
Eyeing the blank card, James frowned a little. He had been given this card right upon his arrival to the place and after the staff at the front desk had made sure that his bank account had enough funds to cover the fee. It looked like a credit card, with its magnetic stripe on the back, but unlike the regular credit cards, this one had nothing written on it.
The blonde had informed James that all the services would be charged on it, and then they would be transferred to the bank account he had been asked to provide at the front desk. The charges would appear on his bank statement under the name of the firm that owned the place. In case his wife or girlfriend had access to the aforesaid statement.
It was a precaution to keep from public knowledge where he had spent the money, exactly or which services he had enjoyed during his stay. The blank card had been personalized yet it could be mistaken for a public parking card. Another precaution, in case the aforesaid wives or girlfriends searched the clients’ wallets, looking for evidence of an extramarital affair.
Sighing softly, James inserted the blank card in the electronic lock causing the door of the cabin to open. He entered the cabin and looked around.
To say that the owners of this place had pushed the boat out decorating the cabins would be the understatement of the year. They had gone for broke. Every single piece of furniture seemed to cost a fortune; they spared no expenses, and it definitely didn’t look like a random brothel room but a luxurious suite of an equally luxurious hotel.
There was a tactile plasma screen on one of the walls, flashing pictures of models, posing provocatively and the word ‘menu’ appeared at the bottom of the screen. James pressed it and a list of services showed up at one side of the screen while a sweet female voice gave him the welcome, informing James about the many facilities and services available so his stay was as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
A soft knock on the door pulled James out of his thoughts and, grabbing a towel from a pile that was on a massage table, he secured it, covering his privates. Then James turned around, clearing his throat. “Please, come in.”
In seconds, Giselle entered the cabin, wearing a silky robe and high heeled sandals. She was wearing soft makeup, her hair loose and her hands and feet showed a perfect French manicure.
James had asked for Giselle, adding how he wanted her to look, so naturally, the management had followed the client’s instructions to the letter. That James had said the first thing that had sprung within his head hadn’t mattered at all.
“Good afternoon, sir,” Giselle’s voice sounded silky soft as she smiled, closing the door at her back.
“Miss Monroe,” James returned the smile for a second and then went serious in a heartbeat. “Or should I say Miss. Elisabeth Miller?”
Giselle went very still, staring at the man in front of her through narrowed eyes. Giselle Monroe was her stage name and she had been using it for years. With the exception of her family and closest friends, no one knew her real name.
Swallowing, Giselle cleared her throat. “May I know who are you, sir?” Her voice shook a little at the end as she took a hesitant step backwards.
Giselle’s polite manners caught James off guard; honesty wasn’t what he had expected. Judging by the girl’s background, James had taken for granted that Giselle was just another brainless, slutty bimbo with little to no education at all. Apparently, he had been dead wrong, which caused that now James found himself wondering why an educated girl had end up becoming a porno actress to begin with. It wasn’t that he was that shocked, but still it was odd.
Sighing softly, James took a seat. “First off, I mean you no harm, Giselle, I just want to talk with you, so please make yourself comfortable,” his voice sounded gentle as he gestured for her take a seat across him and waited for Giselle to oblige. James hoped she didn’t shoot out like a bat out of hell.
“Who told you my real name?” She hesitated once more as her eyes darted between the couch and the door.
“Mr. Dave Breaux,” James answered calmly.
It was bullshit of course; he had found it after making some phone calls to the right places, but James wanted to disconcert Giselle enough, hoping she would feel more inclined to help him, knowing that Dave had revealed something she didn’t want people knowing. James had also found a really interesting piece of information about Giselle’s past that, judging by all the troubles the girl had gone through to make sure that it remained unknown, it was pretty obvious that she didn’t want people finding about it either. No wonder.
The name Miller had rang a bell and James had done a deeper research. It happened that Elisabeth Miller was none other that Jennifer Miller’s kid sister, the girl that would have been raped at ‘Tunnel’ if Vin hadn’t have found her in time to stop the waiter from carrying out his abominable act. It had been that very same waiter, the one saying that he had been warming up the girl for Dave, and it had also been him that was the one spreading the rumors about Vin fucking the go-go dancers after the, back then bouncer, had beat the waiter within an inch of his life.
James had found that Jennifer Miller was living in Brooklyn with her mother and her daughter. Only thing was that her daughter was in fact her niece. The mother of the girl wasn’t Jennifer but her kid sister Elisabeth Miller, aka Giselle Monroe. The questions left were to confirm who the father of that girl was and why Giselle had ended up hooking up with Dave after knowing that he had been the one about to rape her older sister.
Upon hearing Dave’s name, Giselle’s eyes flashed at James with a mix of unveiled disgust, hatred and anger, but she recovered quickly, hiding her feelings behind a blank mask. “I see,” she replied nonchalantly and took at seat on one of the couches. “So, what do you want Mr…”
“Call me James,” he stretched out his hand politely and Giselle shook it. “Like I said before I mean you no harm. I’m only searching for some information.”
“About?” Giselle recoiled a bit, her eyes narrowing once more.
James smiled friendly. “Angelina Marie Miller, Dave’s daughter.”
Luna’s condo. NY
“Fuck me!” Vin blinked, staring at the screen of Luna’s laptop; he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “How do you like this?”
“How is it that we never found out about this?” Val whispered in a disbelieving tone of voice.
Vin shrugged his shoulders. “‘Cause he doesn’t know himself, man,” he answered, putting out his cigarette.
“How old is that little girl anyway?” Renee asked from her spot at the couch; she was comfortably resting there with her legs up on a huge cushion.
Vin enlarged the document to have a better look at the date. “According to her birth certificate she’s ten years old.”
Val shook his head. “How old is Giselle?”
“Twenty six,” Luna answered.
“Which means that she was 16 year old when she got pregnant,” Renee sighed hard, shaking her head.
“And underage,” Luna added disgusted.
“Bastard,” Vin muttered under his breath, jamming his eyes shut. Luna reached out, stroking his nape softly. “I should have guessed it, if only I was paying attention.”
“You didn’t know,” Luna said softly.
In fact nobody knew, since Giselle had kept the secret for years, plotting and scheming until it was the perfect moment to make it public. Giselle had confessed to James that she had been the one setting the cameras at ‘Privilege’.
The experts that Vin’s lawyers and Mauricio Cerutti had hired to carry out the investigation had found the cameras and they had had fingerprints on them. James had been sure that they ended up matching Giselle’s, but he had reached a deal with the girl. Everyone would keep the secret as long as she co-operated with Simon to bring Dave down.
It was an irony, of all the people that Dave had been pissing off for years, it would be Giselle, a 25 year porno actress the one who would mean his end. James had also told Luna that as soon as the cops got interested in Dave, he was sure that there would be more underage girls that would end up showing up. It would be just a matter of time. Not to mention that as soon as Jennifer Miller’s ex-husband, who was serving a fifteen year sentence for drug trafficking, knew about his old partner in business being incarcerated as well, he wouldn’t lose time in trying to reach an agreement with the district attorney to reduce his sentence or maybe even getting his parole in exchange for testify against Dave.
“When is Dave coming, exactly?” Val turned his attention to Oliver who so far had remained in complete silence but as shocked and disgusted as the others.
“In three days, more or less. The embassy will have his passport ready in two days, just like we told him,” Oliver answered, straightening a bit on his seat. “But, unfortunately, I couldn’t find an earlier flight,” Oliver’s lips spread in a small devilish smile and his eyes twinkle with mischief before he continued. “So he won’t be flying directly but stopping over in Rome and London.”
“Smart move, Oliver,” Vin praised his PA.
“Thank you,” Oliver bowed his head a little, in gratitude and then grinned. “Jet lag is a bitch though, so I guess that by the time Dave arrives, he won’t know for sure where he’s standing anymore,” his grin vanished and Oliver shuddered. “At least that’s what I hope, otherwise…” he trailed quietly.
“Otherwise, nothing,” Val was the one answering him. “You’ll be fine, Oliver. we’ll make sure of that.”
“Dave won’t touch you, Oliver, I give you my word, so relax, okay?” Vin added firmly; he wouldn’t let anything happen to Oliver.
“Okay…Thank you.” Once more Oliver smiled in gratitude; he really like Vin’s friends.
Renee had been so sweet with him, even giving Oliver a couple of pieces of advice. Valentino had treated him with respect, the same way Mike had done since Oliver met him. And Luna…she was just like Oliver thought she would be; the perfect match for Vin. It was a really nice image to see the couple together again. It was obvious that they were deeply in love. Oliver liked it, a lot.
Luna’s forehead crumpled softly as she frowned. “How are we going to get everything ready on time?”
Vin chuckled, squeezing her hand softly. “Leave it to Simon and Marcela to make that possible.”
“Okay,” Luna nodded in agreement; she didn’t feel like having to deal with any of that in person, besides she and Vin had to meet up with Joe in a couple of hours.
It was becoming a long ass day, but the sooner they were done making amends with everyone that mattered to them the better. Luna had also talked with Lorraine on the phone, and they had agreed to have a coffee together so they could talk as soon as all this shit with Dave was done one and for all.
(later that night)
Luna’s condo. NY
“You don’t have to do it, Joe,” Vin stared down, at his boots, his voice low, close to a whisper. “I’d understand if you say ‘fuck you’.”
“I know,” Joe answered flatly as he leaned back on his seat, staring at the screen of Luna’s laptop. It showed a single frame of the orgy within the cabin at ‘Privilege’. “You really think people will buy it?”
Vin glanced up at the screen for a few seconds, then shrugged his shoulders a little. “They did it in the past. I don’t see why they wouldn’t do it again.”
“True,” Joe conceded, returning his attention to the screen. “The background is not clear enough and the quality of the images is not very good. That’ll help, I’m thinking,” Joe leaned forward, keeping his tone of voice devoid of any emotion as he pointed at several spots across the screen with his finger. “Not many people would be able to recognize the background though, which in itself is a very good thing.”
Vin’s eyebrows drew down, crumpling his forehead.
Over the years, Vin and Joe had taken a seat many times in front of a monitor while on a shoot to examine in detail the images recording Joe’s performance while stunt doubling Vin’s action scenes. It had been a process that both men had insisted on supervising closely so they could spot any shooting failure that would give away who was jumping, running or fighting for real.
On more occasions than not their actions had caused the director and the stunt coordinator to get mad at them both because of their almost sick search for perfection, but mostly because the immediate consequence had been Joe repeating the scene over and over until he himself and Vin had been completely satisfied with the result. If Vin was a workaholic, Joe didn’t fall far behind, which almost always had meant more hours of shooting and the consequent increase of the budget.
This however was not the same and Vin was starting to feel awkward.
“In fact, most people wouldn’t even be able to assure when this was recorded, exactly, or when,” Joe continued in his most business-like tone of voice. “I had my hair grown a bit but that’s a small failure, since you did the same a couple of years ago, for a few weeks in between shootings. You remember?” He turned his head to look at Vin. “I think it was between ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ and ‘The Pacifier’, right?” Joe waited for the actor’s confirmation.
Without lifting his gaze from the floor, Vin nodded, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Yeah,” he sighed hard. This was not natural behavior, not even coming from Joe, the respected stunt double.
“Yeah,” Joe snickered. “You had lost a bet with Valentino and had to grow your hair to a short afro,” he paused for a beat and then added, “you looked damn cute though.”
Vin had to chuckle in spite of his growing discomfort with this entire situation. Back then he had been bragging about some shit he couldn’t remember now; it had been a stupid ass bet and Val had taken a picture of Vin’s afro as a reminder, so Vin wouldn’t bet again while being drunk.
“Now, physically…” Joe continued thoughful, tapping one finger against his lips and returned his attention to the screen. “You look at your best or me at my worst…” he snorted absentmindedly, “I guess it depends on who you ask, don’t you think?”
Vin shut his eyes, shaking his head; he couldn’t give credit. How could Joe be so cool with all this shit?
“Then again, you were always able to get back in shape in record time and it’s not like you didn’t do it before, anyway,” Joe pointed out flatly. “The fat in your body swings more than a stripper’s hips, honey,” he grinned. “But, I’m thinking that fact would be of benefit for us in this particular case, since I have a tendency to gain weight, if I’m not careful with what I eat, that is, so I could have lacked a bit in between shootings,” Joe frowned, apparently a bit lost on thoughts. “It will definitively explain why I do look like shit,” he concluded.
Joe’s lack of emotion and his matter of fact tone of voice finally got on Vin’s nerves. “What the fuck are you doing, Joe?” His muttered under his breath.
“Huh?” Joe blinked, looking at Vin who had lifted his head and was now staring at him, a mix of disbelief, puzzlement and anger sparkling in his tired gaze. “Well, I’m checking these images with you, Vin, the same way we’ve done many times before,” Joe explained innocently, as though his critical analysis of the scenes they were watching was the most natural thing to do.
“In case you didn’t notice, these aren’t exactly scenes of one of my movies, Joe,” Vin sneered sarcastically, glaring at the stunt double.
“Damn right, you asshole!” Joe snapped bitterly, all trace of his cool gone in one second flat as, coldly, he glared back at Vin. “What did you expect for me to do, huh?” he turned fully on the chair.
Vin blinked, caught off guard at Joe’s outburst. This was what Vin had expected though, but the hatred in Joe’s gaze was what really got him.
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Vin apologised, averting his gaze; he was having a hard time meeting Joe’s gaze, mostly because he felt guiltier than the sin.
“For what, exactly?” Joe shot back coldly.
Vin cleared his throat. “For asking you to pass yourself off as me, yet once more, and also for…”
Joe cut Vin off. “I don’t recall you asking me before, Vin,” he retorted. “You either called me yourself or Marcela did it, but neither of you gave me a chance to say ‘no’. So what’s with all this shit now, huh?” he snarled.
“This is a bit different, Joe,” Vin shifted in his chair, tensing, yet he didn’t raise his head. “It might end up affecting your career too,” he explained quietly.
“Oh,” Joe blinked, “and since when is my career of your concern, anyway? If you don’t mind me asking,” he leaned backwards, never averting his gaze from Vin’s face. “‘Cause as far as I know you never kept that little detail in mind over the past years. In fact you never gave a fuck about my career or my well being, sunshine!”
That caused Vin to snap his head up, glaring at his stunt double. “That’s not fair, Joe,” he tensed up, going on the defensive.
“Fair…” Joe echoed, cocking his head to one side as his lips tugged up in a cruel smile. “What the fuck do you know about fairness, Vin Diesel?” Joe’s glacial look pinned Vin, as though holding him immobile. “You always thought about yourself. You never cared about anyone else but you.”
“That’s not true, Joe, and you know it. I always cared for you,” Vin muttered through clenched teeth.
“Yeah, but not because you wanted to or because you cared for me,” Joe shot back viciously, and went on without thinking, “but because you felt guilty after what that fucking bastard did to me!”
Vin felt as though Joe had kicked him in his balls and a low feral growl passed his lips. “Yeah, I felt guilty, still do, but I wasn’t the only one to blame,” his voice sounded as disgusted as Joe’s and yet as cold as ice itself. “How many times had I told you to not trust people for the hell of it, huh? To stay away from guys like Dave and his buddies, huh, Joey?” Vin glared at Joe and the stunt double recoiled a bit. “I told you they meant trouble and yet you had to go mess with them!”
That did it and before Joe realized, more than fifteen years of restrained pain and anger were unleashed with the force of a hurricane. “I didn’t mess with them, you bastard!” Joe raised his voice and all but yelled at Vin. “It wasn’t me who he wanted to punish, but you, Vin! You and Chichi!” He breathed raggedly, fighting back angry tears as he continued. “What he did to me was meant for Patrick!”
Vin blinked, astonished. “What the fuck are you talking about?” He gasped as his eyes grew wide. That couldn’t be, right?
Dave never liked Chichi, that was true, but why in the hell would he want to hurt the go-do dancer at all? Chichi had never done anything to Dave; in fact he had always kept himself at a distance from Dave.
Vin’s eyes franticly moved back and forth as his brain went into overdrive. Somehow it made sense though and Vin locked eyes with Joe. The deep hatred was back in his gaze as, defiantly, he stared back at Vin, as though daring him to deny what he was saying.
“I-I didn’t know…” Vin whispered under his breath.
Joe snorted. “You mean you didn’t want to know,” he muttered through clenched teeth.
“Vin shook his head. “Patrick never told me…” he trailed off. Why didn’t Chichi trust him?
“Of course he didn’t!” Joe lifted his hand, roughly wiping his cheeks. Angry tears had unnoticed ended up being split. “You would have never believed him, anyway.” The deep sadness in Joe’s voice felt like a stab.
“That you don’t know, Joe!” Vin growled.
Joe chuckled sadly. “I heard both of you talking…” he breathed out, sniffing. “That night at the hospital…I heard what Patrick said to you and you just kept in silence. You weren’t man enough to admit your feelings, or at the very least to tell him that he was wrong…”
At Joe’s words, Vin looked down, feeling ashamed of his behavior. Joe was right though.
“That has always been your problem, Vin. You never thought about anyone else but you,” Joe sniffled softly, blinking his blurry vision. “He always offered you his support without expecting anything in return, even when most people thought that you were just a pathetic loser with delusions of grandeur, he still believed in you; kept saying that you’d become a famous actor, and that was how you paid him back…” As in slow motion, Joe got to his feet, grabbing his jacket from the back of the chair, where he had draped it before. “Patrick was always too good for you. You didn’t deserve someone like him, Vin. I hope you learnt the lesson well and don’t make the same mistake with Luna, because you sure as hell don’t deserve a woman like her either.”
Vin followed Joe’s every move and stood as well. Reaching out, he grabbed his stunt double’s arms, stopping Joe from going further. “I swear to God I never wanted anything bad to happen to you,” he swallowed hard, locking eyes with Joe. “If I could, I’d go back in time to protect you from that fucker.”
Without thinking, Joe lifted his hand, cupping Vin’s face; he had no doubt that Vin was being sincere. “I know that, Vin, and it’s not like you haven’t been making up for what he did to me, anyway.” His bottom lip quivered a little and Joe bit it hard as a few more tears rolled down his cheeks. “Besides, you protected Lorraine from that monster and that’s something I’ll always be grateful for,” Joe smiled sadly and lowered his hand. “I’ll help you with anything you may need to bring that bastard down.”
Vin felt his heart being squeezed in pain. Joe had always been a wonderful person and a better friend, always caring for people, placing everyone’s well being ahead of his own. “Thank you, Joe.”
Joe nodded. “It’s okay,” he grinned a little and headed towards the entrance. “Give Luna a huge bear hug from me, okay?”
“I’ll do so.” Vin followed him and stopped right at the door, clearing his throat. “Joe,” Vin found himself swallowing past a lump that came from nowhere and met Joe’s teary eyes. “I know I’m way too late to say this, but…I’m sorry, Joe,” he whispered in a strangled voice.
“It’s not me who you should apologise to, honey,” Joe smiled sadly and kissing Vin’s cheek, he turned and left.
Vin stood motionless, looking down at his feet. Joe was right once more. There was another person who deserved an apology.
The Carousel. NY.
“You didn’t have to buy me flowers, sunshine,” Chichi grinned at Fred and turned around, inhaling deeply the soft scent of the yellow roses, his favorite ones.
“Well, I’d love to take the credit, but they aren’t mine, baby,” Fred answered, helping Chichi out of the tight corset.
Chichi blinked, a bit startled. “Then who sent them?”
Fred chuckled. “There’s a note, why don’t you see it for yourself?”
Chichi rolled his eyes and, reaching out, he picked up the envelope, pulling out the note. It had been handwritten and Chichi’s eyes almost popped out of his sockets when, silently, he read the note.
You never were just a hole to stick my cock into while being drunk or high, and what we shared was much more than just clandestine sex and perverse fantasies. I’m sorry I wasn’t man enough to tell you what you meant to me for real but you have to know that I will never regret the time we spent together, ever. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart and my soul. Thank you for being my sunshine.