EPILOGUE I (Part I)
(Two months later)
Maternity Unit. Cedars Sinai Hospital. (New York)
“Damn…she’s gorgeous…” Vin breathed out, grinning like a goof when Luz Maria smiled in her sleep. She was just days old and Vin had already fallen in love with her.
“Hey, do not swear in front of my daughter, bro,” Val scolded him but there was a huge grin plastered on his lips.
“Oh, come on, like she can understand,” Vin rolled his eyes and, tenderly, he rocked the sleeping beauty in his arms. “Look at this, bro, you’re gonna flip out.” Vin cleared his throat and growled under his breath.
In response, the baby girl’s lips spread in a huge smile at hearing the sound and, this time, Val was the one rolling his eyes.
“How is that no matter how old they are women fall for that shit, eh?” He blinked in disbelief, feeling Luz’s little hand squeezing his index finger.
Vin snorted. “Don’t know, but ain’t it cool?”
“If you say so,” Val knit a brow and then they both snickered.
“Hey, are you two done playing mom and dad with my baby?” Renee’s sleepy voice teased them and Vin and Val looked at her, grinning like idiots.
She had fallen asleep after feeding Luz Maria. Renee was still recovering from a difficult birth and felt sore all over, but happier than ever before.
“Yeah, but I was dad, so we stay clear,” Vin smirked as he got to his feet and moved to stand next to Renee’s bed.
“Brat,” Val deadpanned and Renee giggled.
“Would it be okay if I take Luz to visit Luna?”
Renee glanced at Val and then nodded. “Don’t see why not? The next breast-feed is in one hour though.”
“Cool, I’ll be back before this beautiful lady here starts fussing around. I promise.”
“You better, or I’ll go get you,” Val moved a chair and took a seat next to Renee, taking her hand in his and squeezing tenderly.
“Yeah, you and who else, Morales?” Vin joked as he leaned forward so Renee and Val could kiss Luz and with that he headed towards the Cardiac Care Unit, where Luna had been admitted for a routine checkup.
Val shook his head. “Poor bugger, Luz has him wrapped around her little finger already.”
“He’s like a little kid on Christmas Day with a brand new toy,” Renee smiled warmly.
Val nodded, sighing softly. “It’s good to see him so happy again. I thought he would die that night.”
Renee frowned. “I thought he was going to kill Roberto right then and there.”
“Oh, you gotta be fucking kidding me,” Vin muttered under his breath when he spotted Roberto, heading towards the ICU. “What the hell is this fucker doing in here, man?”
“Chill out, bro, he’s the chief of the cardiology unit,” Val explained, squeezing his friend’s shoulder. “Think about Luna, okay? Roberto is an asshole but he’s also a hell of a cardiologist,” Val added as he tightened his grip on Vin’s shoulder, feeling the muscles tensing under his hand.
Vin nodded in agreement, if reluctantly. He didn’t like it one damn bit that Luna’s life was in Roberto’s hands. Vin never liked nor trust Val’s cousin, and it wasn’t just jealousy that aroused his deep distrust. There was something wrong, Vin could feel it and, somehow he knew that Roberto had to do with it.
Without giving it a second thought, Vin pulled out Luna’s cell phone, flipping it open.
“Who are you calling, bro? Your parents?” Val frowned, staring at his childhood friend.
Vin’s eyes were red-rimmed and he looked about to collapse in exhaustion even though he was a nervous wreck. His hands were shaking so badly that Vin almost couldn’t dial the tiny keys on the phone and Val didn’t even dare to think what Vin would do if for whatever reason something went wrong with Luna.
Vin shook his head ‘no’, but didn’t say who he was calling, exactly.
A small commotion at the other end of the hall caused both of them to turn in that direction and they saw Renee, Samantha and Nila heading towards the waiting room. Steve and Allison trailing behind them.
Immediately, Vin found himself missing the hell out of his parents. He wanted them with him; he was terrified of losing Luna, but for now, the people filling the room would do the trick. For the first time that night and surrounded by the people he considered his family, Vin felt a glimmer of hope. Amazing what family could do.
Nila came over and gave him one of those soothing hugs that only mothers know how to give. “How are you holding up, big guy?” She cupped his cheek, stroking it tenderly.
“I’m fine, but they won’t tell us anything. I’m going out of my mind here, Nila.”
“Patience never was one of your virtues, Mark,” Nila smiled sadly.
“Let me go up to the desk and see what I can find out,” Allison offered, concern in her voice and features.
Violet shook her head. “They won’t tell you anything, honey.”
Allison snorted. “Wanna bet?”
“Never underestimate agents, Violet. They are a force to be reckoned with,” Samantha added as she sat on the other side of her older brother. She then took Vin’s free hand in hers and squeezed it softly. “I phoned mom and dad; they’ll be here tomorrow. You okay, honey?”
“If Luna makes it then I will be okay, but until then…” he trailed off, pressing speed dial on his wife’s cell phone and waited.
“I’ll go get coffee, it’s going to be a long night,” Violet squeezed Vin’s shoulder and stood.
“I’ll give you a hand,” Renee moved forward and Violet nodded.
“Thank you, for being here with me,” Vin blurted out of nowhere, looking around and blinking away unnoticed tears.
“Everything will be okay, you’ll see,” Violet reassured him and Vin nodded, even though he wasn’t so sure.
Val tapped Vin’s shoulder. So far Vin seemed to be holding up pretty well but deep down Val knew his friend was a step away from insanity. He only hoped that his cousin didn’t decide to mess with Vin, otherwise Val didn’t trust his friend with not killing Roberto before the night ended. Things were bad enough as it was.
Luna and Vin had already talked about the possibility of Luna suffering a cardiac arrest while at the farm, and, as a precaution, they had agreed to hire a helicopter to take her to the hospital in New York as fast as possible. So when Vin had found his wife unconscious, he had called Violet and without wasting one second and, after checking her vitals, he had carried out a cardiac massage. Meanwhile, Violet had phoned the Cedars to make sure that they had everything ready when Luna arrived. All in all, by the time Luna had been admitted at the hospital, she had suffered a heart failure and her life was in danger.
Steve glanced at Vin and then met Val’s concerned eyes. They both nodded at once. They better keep a close eye on Vin, just in case.
Just then, Allison came back into the waiting room. “I have news, guys. Luna is in a critical state but stable. That nice nurse over there told me that her doctor will be out in about five minutes to talk to us.”
Nila just shook her head. “How the hell did you do that, girl? Mark is Luna’s wife and they wouldn’t tell him shit.”
Steve chuckled. “Don’t ask; just be glad that she’s on our side, Nila.”
Allison grinned briefly and crouched in front of Vin. “Do you want me to call her parents?”
Vin shook his head ‘no’. “I have no intention of contacting her parents. As far as Luna and I are concerned, they gave up all rights to know about anything linked with her the minute they shut her out. The last thing I’m going to do is call my ‘in-laws’ so they can cry crocodile tears all over Luna’s bedside.”
Allison nodded in understanding; she knew Luna wouldn’t like that at all. “Is there anything I can do?”
Vin sighed heavily. “Yeah, stick around. I’m sure Luna would love to see you once she’s out of the ICU.”
Allison chewed on her bottom lip, guilt and shame flashing in her eyes, but she nodded, blinking back her tears. “I’ll do so.”
They heard footsteps and, at once, they all turned, finding Roberto standing in the doorway. “Whoa, are they sharing out candies?” he looked around, taking in the many people filling the room. “I thought only family members were allowed in here.”
As in slow motion Vin got to his feet and, purposely ignoring Roberto’s out of place comment, he closed the distance between then, standing in front of him. “How is my wife?”
Val looked down, hiding the smirk on his lips at the way his cousin’s face twisted in disgust, as though he had swallowed poison. Val was sure that the words ‘my wife’ coming from Vin’s mouth was what had caused it. The Dominican bet money that to Roberto they hurt more than a kick in his balls.
“You should know that there’s a policy against cellular phones in hospitals, Vin.” Roberto gestured to Vin’s right hand, shooting him an icy glare.
Everybody started suspecting that Roberto was deliberately provoking Vin so that he made the huge mistake of jumping all over the cardiologist. The little prick should know better. The last thing within Vin’s mind was to give Roberto a reason to throw him out of the hospital, although he was having a hard time keeping his temper at bay.
“I’m phoning my wife’s cardiologist,” Vin did his best to sound even. He had been told to hold on the line while the staff at Cedars in LA contacted Dr. Williams.
His words only infuriated Roberto even more. “I am Luna’s cardiologist!” he snapped, gritting his teeth.
Not if I have a say in it, Vin retorted silently but his face remained impassive. He wouldn’t make a spectacle of himself, not when Luna’s life was in danger. The most important thing was to find how his wife was; he could always kick Roberto’s ass, eventually.
Val had had enough. “Then stop fucking around and tell us how she is. ¡Carajo!”
Roberto glared at his cousin and cleared his throat. “I’m afraid I’m not bearing good news.”
At that, Vin felt his knees quivering and held onto Val who wasn’t sure how much longer Vin’s legs would keep him standing.
“Luna suffered a severe heart failure and her arrhythmia worsened considerably. I don’t think that a pacemaker will be worth it anymore and her heart won’t resist much longer, but the worst news is that I can’t operate on her.”
“Why not?” Vin growled and Steve and Val moved forward, effectively preventing Vin from getting closer to Roberto; he was already too close for their liking.
“Her heart won’t resist the intervention,” Roberto replied in a matter-of-fact voice.
At such a cold statement, Vin felt his guts twisting. “So now what?” He forced out, swallowing dryly.
Roberto knit a brow. “Now, we can only wait.”
Val glanced at Vin; he was pale, all color drawn, and his hand, the one holding the phone, was shaking, the knuckles white under the fierce pressure.
Roberto went silent for effect and looked around, then met Vin’s gaze and plunged. “For the dramatic ending.”
“Vin? Vin, are you there? This is Trisha Williams…Vin? Can you hear me?”
Vin heard someone calling him but couldn’t place who or from where the voice was coming. Roberto’s words kept echoing within his head and all of a sudden he couldn’t breath. His chest hurt and his heart was racing like a wild horse. His concern turned to fear and his fear turned to frustration, then his frustration turned to anger and his vision washed red.
In one second flat, Vin took one final step forward, releasing himself from Val and Steve with lightening speed and stood toe to toe with Roberto.
“What did you say?” Vin cocked his head to one side, never averting his gaze from Roberto’s; he didn’t even recognize his own voice. It sounded cold and deep and held an unveiled threat that didn’t go unnoticed on anyone and that sent shivers up everyone’s spines, including Roberto’s.
“Vin? For Christ’s sake, answer me, Goddamnit!!”
The voice of Luna’s cardiologist thundered within his head and Vin blinked, snapping out of his trance. “What?” he barked on the phone, his eyes locked with Roberto’s.
“Thank God! Put me on with Dr. Morales. Now!”
Dr. Williams’ voice demanded; she sounded furious and yet Vin felt a profound relief washing over him.
“It’s for you.” Vin handed the cell phone to Roberto who blinked, startled at both Vin’s sudden change in demeanor and the fact that Luna’s cardiologist wanted to talk with him.
“Who is this?” The cardiologist demanded to know in an authoritarian tone of voice, clipped with unveiled anger. Roberto already knew, but it was his wounded ego doing the talking.
“This is Dr. Trisha Williams, chief of cardiology at the Cedars in LA.” There was a pause and the cardiologist continued. “I’ve been told that you’re treating my patient, Mrs. Luna Vincent and from what I heard, your diagnosis seems to be quite defeatist, don’t you think?”
Roberto’s gaze hardened. “It’s not a defeatist diagnosis, doctor, but a known fact proven beyond doubt after I run several tests.” For some reason the name William sounded familiar, but Roberto couldn’t place where he had heard it before, not at that moment. It was a very common name.
“Hmm…is that your professional opinion as a cardiologist or a personal observation, Dr. Morales? Because to me, there is no such a thing as ‘dramatic ending’, not when there are at least two alternative treatments that can be carried out successfully.”
“Cardioversion or Chemical Cardioversion with ‘Adenosine’, to begin with.”
Roberto snorted. “Are you serious? That’s a very dangerous process and there are no guarantee of success. Besides, you can’t go over my head, Dr. Williams. I am the chief of cardiology here. I don’t have to justify myself or my diagnosis for that matter.”
“And what a shitty chief of cardiology you are, Dr. Morales. What are playing at?”
“Excuse Me?” Roberto blinked in utter disbelief.
“Refusing to use a therapy that has proven successful in 8 out of 10 cases when the patient’s life is at stake doesn’t sound like very ethical behavior. I wonder what the Board of Governors would say upon knowing.”
Roberto went silent, looking at the people filling the waiting room. Every single gaze was fixed on him.
Roberto spun around at hearing his name. “What?” He spat annoyed.
“Um…you have an incoming call, doctor.” The nurse looked nervous and was shifting from one foot to another. “It’s the director of the Board of Governors Women’s Heart Center in LA.”
Roberto paled as soon as he recalled why the name Williams had sounded familiar. Cursing himself inwardly, Roberto felt his blood boiling within his veins. He couldn’t believe his own stupidity.
“Dr. Morales? Before you go take my husband’s call, I’d like for you to keep my patient sedated and monitored. I’ll be there first thing in the morning. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to talk with Mr. Vincent. Thank you.”
End Flash back
“Yeah, if it wasn’t because Dr. Williams’ husband cut down Roberto to size that fucker would have let Luna die,” Val heaved a hard sigh.
“But she’s alive, and that’s what matters,” Renee squeezed her husband’s hand and smiled.
“That’s true, and you’d like to know that, tonight, Vin is going to ask Luna to marry him,” Val grinned.
“Really?” Renee smiled widely.
Val nodded. “Yep, he’s been waiting for the perfect moment to ask her. Apparently Vin was going to do it that night.”
“Oh, man…” Renee giggled which caused Val to frown at his wife’s unexpected reaction.
“What’s so funny?” He wanted to know.
“Tonight Luna will tell Vin that she’s pregnant,” Renee whispered excited.
“¡Coño!” Val laughed. “What’s with that fucker? Is he some sort of stallion or what?” he shook his head but was still laughing.
Cardiac Care Unit. Cedars Sinai Hospital. (New York)
Dr. Trisha Williams hummed to herself as she jotted down some lines on Luna’s medical history. The cardiologist had been checking the results of the latest tests carried out on her patient and they were more than satisfactory.
Cardioversion had been a complete success. Just two small scars on her chest, at the level where the electro pads had been applied to deliver the electrical current that had been sent directly to Luna’s heart and that had ensured the return of it to a normal activity could be see on her epidermis. They looked like sunburns though and could be covered with a bit of makeup, if Luna wanted to.
Nevertheless, the highly positive result of Cardioversion was that, from now on, Luna would be able to enjoy a plentiful life without running the risk of suffering another heart attack in the near future. Her arrhythmia had been stabilized as well, yet Luna should be admitted at the hospital each six months at first, to have routine checkups and later once a year. It would be a precaution more than any other thing.
Lifting her gaze, Dr. Williams looked at the pile of medical records waiting to be read and sighed softly, shaking her head.
Dr. Trisha Williams had been asked to take after Dr. Morales’ patients right after he was removed from his spot at the Cedars as chief of cardiology. The Board of Governors had gone as far as offering Trisha to hold Roberto’s spot, and she was seriously considering accepting the offer, moving into New York.
Dr. Roberto Morales was being investigated for his improper and unprofessional behavior by the Board of Governors and, until they were done, he wouldn’t be able to come close to another patient. Maybe even would end up losing his license to practice in the US, which Dr. Williams thought wouldn’t be that bad a thing, considering his more than obvious lack of ethics. Not to mention that he wasn’t too much appreciated around.
The fact that Roberto had acted like a pompous prick with several of his peers from minute one, pissing off more than one of them wouldn’t help him, that was for sure. Quite the opposite, half the staff at the Cardiac Care Unit would be more than happy if they could lose the Dominican cardiologist from sight.
Blinking, she turned around, seeing a nurse with a couple of folders in her hands. “Mr. Escudero has been admitted for his annual checkup,” the nurse handed one of them to the cardiologist, smiling, and then continued. “And here you have Mrs. Riddick’s blood and urine test results.” The nurse couldn’t help it and a fits of giggles escaped her mouth as she handed the cardiologist the other folder.
Dr. Williams chuckled upon hearing ‘Mrs. Riddick’. Most celebrities wished to remain anonymous, so it was common procedure to name them after some fictional character at being admitted at the hospital. Just their doctor’s team would know who they were treating for real.
In Luna’s case and, after rumors circulating, saying how Vin had threatened Dr. Morales with just his gaze and the sound of his voice, Dr. William’s team had started calling Luna ‘Mrs. Riddick’, honouring Vin’s character, the infamous ex-convict and murderer Richard B. Riddick.
Dr. Williams didn’t contradict her team members, since she herself thought the name quite fitting.
“Thank you, Amanda,” the cardiologist chuckled and started reading Luna’s tests. In seconds, a huge smile spread on her lips; they held wonderful news.
Dr. Williams knew better than anyone else how happy ‘Mr. and Mrs. Riddick’ would be upon finding that they would become parents in months. It was indeed a wonderful surprise that would surely mean the beginning of a new life for the couple.
“Please, Amanda, tell Mr. Escudero to make himself comfortable; I’ll be with him in a minute,” Dr. Williams paused, glancing down at Luna’s tests and then continued. “I have to go see Mrs. Riddick first.”
“I’ll do so, doctor,” Amanda nodded and strolled down the hallway.
At hearing her name, Trisha turned around, watching Vin heading towards her, a newborn baby in his arms and a huge goofy grin plastered on his lips. The vision melted the cardiologist’s heart.
Vin looked radiant, as though glowing from the inside out. His eyes were sparkling and that smile…she bet women would faint in seconds after having the chance to see him with that baby in his arms. It was indeed a beautiful vision.
Dr. Williams grinned and met him half way. “Aw, she’s the cutest baby girl,” she whispered, looking at the sleeping beauty in his arms.
“Yeah, that she is,” Vin whispered proudly, rocking Luz tenderly when she stirred a little in her sleep. “I was on my way to see Luna.”
Dr. Williams smiled. “Great, I’ll go with you. I have the results of Luna’s test.”
Vin’s grin vanished a little. “Is everything okay?” The deep concern in his voice got the cardiologist and she nodded.
“Yes, everything’s fine. In fact, I’m going to discharge her in a minute, so you both can go back home.” The cardiologist kept to herself the results of her patient’s pregnancy test, guessing that Luna would love to be the one breaking the news to her husband.
“Cool!” Vin’s grin was back in seconds and Dr. Williams patted his arms, reassuringly.
“Dr. Williams?” Amanda hurried her steps and stopped in front of them. “Mr. Escudero demands to know why Dr. Morales won’t be attending him.”
Dr. Williams sighed softly and looked at Vin. “I have to take care of this. Why don’t you go ahead, I’ll sign Luna’s discharge and you can pick up the papers at the desk?”
“Sure,” Vin nodded but frowned at hearing the cardiologist’s patient’s name.
“Make sure to see me before you go, okay, Vin.”
Once more Vin nodded and then. “Excuse me, Dr. Williams, but this Mr. Escudero…your patient…wouldn’t happen to be Santiago Escudero?”
The cardiologist blinked and, opening the folders, she read her patient’s first name. “Yes, do you know him?” She wanted to know; maybe Santiago Escudero was friends with the couple.
“Well, not in person, but Luna’s book was published by his publishing house.”
“Oh, the world is a handkerchief…” Dr. Williams commented.
“Yeah, and full of snots,” Vin replied, but there wasn’t humor in his voice. “I know that is classified information and none of my business, but could you tell me if he’s okay?”
Dr. Williams frowned, but had a look at Santiago’s medical record. As long as she didn’t divulge any medical piece of information, it would be fine. “Well, I’d say yes, since Mr. Escudero is here for a routine checkup, similar to the ones Luna will go through in the future.” She looked at Vin, curious. “Why?”
Vin glanced down at Luz; she was still deeply asleep, then he met Dr. William’s eyes. “Roberto Morales was his doctor?”
The cardiologist wasn’t sure where Vin was heading, but once more quickly reading Santiago’s medical records, she nodded. “According to his medical profile, Dr. Morales operated on him a couple of years ago. Yes.”
Vin’s eyebrows drew down, crumpling his forehead. That was indeed an interestingly odd piece of information. It made sense though. Santiago Escudero was Dominican and Vin knew that Roberto was a well known cardiologist in his country of origin, according to Valentino’s family’s words, anyway.
“Vin? Is everything okay?”
“Not sure,” Vin answered absentmindedly as his trail of thoughts turned to an unexpected direction when Vin recalled his father’s words regarding Luna’s books being stored in that warehouse. A warehouse that happened to belong to Rafael Escudero, Santiago’s brother.
A completely bizarre suspicion started to grow in his guts and Vin’s gaze hardened in seconds. Could it be possible that Roberto was the one putting pressure on Santiago so he contacted Luna to have her book published? And why did Roberto meddle in Luna’s business, anyway? What was Val’s sneaky cousin expecting to get in return? Luna’s unconditional love and devotion?
Narrowing his eyes, Vin let out a low growl under his breath, unknowingly causing Luz to smile in her sleep at the gravely sound.
Luna’s love wasn’t what Roberto wanted to get out of that shit, but revenge. Roberto wanted to pay Vin back and, to achieve such a dishonest goal, he had used Luna, scheming and plotting at her back. Oh, man, she’s gonna get very pissed off, Vin shook his head.
Luna wouldn’t like to find that yet once more someone had been messing with her career, and Roberto of all of people. Vin bet money that his wife would demand some answers, sooner rather than later. Santiago had a few explanations to offer himself and Vin was planning to update Luna, so they both could talk with Santiago to find what was Roberto up to, exactly.
The sound of a soft whimper pulled Vin out of his thoughts and he looked down, smiling in spite of himself. Luz was yawning and squirming in his arms.
“Hi, gorgeous,” Vin whispered, grinning when the baby girl’s eyes met his. “Wanna go see Aunt Luna?” he bent his head, kissing Luz’s forehead tenderly and the baby reached up, trying to grab his nose.
A round of ‘aws’ was heard around them and Vin lifted his eyes, watching at least half a dozen nurses staring at him with dreamy eyes. He smiled sheepishly, feeling his cheeks heating up and returned his attention to Dr. Williams. “Erm…thank you,” Vin slip past the cardiologist and hurried his steps, heading towards Luna’s room, the sound of loud sighs echoing behind him.
EPILOGUE I (Part II)
‘The Carousel.’ NY.
“What do you think, sunshine?” Chichi met Fred’s eyes through their reflections and lifted his chin, posing, as though he was a supermodel that owned the world.
Fred gave him a thoughtful once over, taking in the many feathers that the Bob Mackie’s exclusive extravaganza Chichi was wearing had and the elaborated makeup he had matched the outfit with. “You were born to wear it, baby.” He gallantly said and then grinned wickedly. “Cher who?”
Chichi laughed, flattered and pleased at Fred’s words. “Why are straight guys the ones throwing the best compliments ever, sunshine?” he pouted a little and Fred chuckled.
“Miss Chichi?” A voice at the other side of the dressing room door called. “Five minutes to go on stage.”
“Thank you, sunshine!” Chichi called back as he gave himself one final once over. “Damn! Do I look fabulous or what?”
It was a rhetorical question, so Fred just shook his head and, grinning, he opened the door of Chichi’s dressing room. Fred’s grin however vanished as soon as he found a man standing at the other side. Apparently, he had been about to knock on the door.
Arching a brow, Fred stared at him. With the hallway in shadows, the man looked like Vin Diesel himself and the bouncer took a step backwards, shocked. But then Fred gave him a better look and blinked as recognition struck him.
The sound of glass shattering pulled Fred out of his thoughts and he spun around.
“Joey…” Chichi gasped, covering his mouth as his eyes brimmed with tears of joy.
“You look fabulous, Patrick,” Joe smiled, blinking his own tears away.
Hopkins Management Agency. Marcela’s office. LA
“Well, what do you think?” Moira asked, expectant.
Marcela leaned forward, looking at the screen of her computer. “It looks great, Moira. I’m impressed,” she complimented her long time friend and smiled. “I think is the best decision you ever made.”
Moira chuckled. “I know, and since that despicable worm Alfred fired me after I refused to knowledge that video showing Vin, well, I thought that it was the right time to create my own blog. ‘Moira’s’,” she smiled proudly and sipped from her cappuccino. “Besides, the ‘LA Confidential’ isn’t the glamorous magazine that it used to be anymore. Now it’s just another morally dubious tabloid sold at supermarkets,” Moira pretended to retch at the mere thought.
“A tabloid that no self-respecting celeb will back up in the future, that’s for sure. A-list celebrities don’t like to see their names sharing the cover of a magazine with Z-list wannabes, if you know what I mean.” Marcela pointed out. “Not to mention the lawsuit that is coming their way; Simon Weisman isn’t a man to mess with. They better get the checkbook ready because once Vin’s lawyers are done with Alfred, he’ll be lucky to get a job at McDonalds.”
Moira nodded in agreement. “That’s true and you’d like to know that, since I started posting, my list of advertisers keeps growing at a fast speed. I’m already more famous than ‘Perezito’ around the Internet, and more respected too,” she grinned and lifted her cup of cappuccino to toast.
“You go girl!” Marcela cheered, toasting with her best friend and they both smiled widely. “Did you contact Valentino and Renee?”
Moira nodded. “Yep, they sent me a press release confirming the baby’s sex and her name, but refused to add Luz’s picture, which I respect. It’s a gesture that does them credit, most parents wouldn’t doubt to whore their babies to be under the spotlight,” she paused to sip and then continued. “That’s a very tricky path that never ends well.”
“They are too honest for that shit,” Marcela leaned backwards on her leather seat, making herself comfortable. “What about Luna?”
“That woman is amazing, I tell you,” Moira smiled. “I contacted her to ask for her support on two of my health projects to fight against eating disorders and to make women aware of heart problems, encouraging them to have routine checkups. And guess what? She said to count her in!”
Marcela smiled. “That’s really generous on her part,” she replied sincerely. It made sense too. No one better than Vin’s wife to offer her support, since Luna herself had suffered both bulimia and heart problems.
Moira nodded in agreement. “Yes, it is, and Luna even offered to write about it, sharing her personal experience in the health section on the blog.”
Marcela sighed happily. Finally everything seemed to work out just fine. “I got a call from Rose Hampton, Sheila’s mother.”
At that Moira’s smile vanished. “Oh, how’s Rose doing?”
Marcela heaved a hard sigh. “She’s doing fine, considering that Sheila will finally be transferred to ‘McLean Hospital’ in Belmont to serve her sentence instead of spending the rest of her life locked in one of the wings of ‘Twin Towers’.”
The largest mental institution in the country was actually a wing of a county jail located downtown LA. Known as Twin Towers, because of the design, the facility had at least 1,400 mentally ill patients in one of its two identical hulking structures.
Moira shuddered at the thought of Rose going to visit Sheila to the Twin Towers. It was both a disheartening and unsettling fate, even if Sheila deserved it. “I guess she was more than grateful that you made a couple of phone calls.”
Marcela nodded. “Oh, she was, she was, but I didn’t do it because of Sheila though, that little bitch had it coming her way too long ago, but because of Rose…” she shook her head, “that woman already went through hell and back. Besides, I wasn’t the one coming up with such an idea, but Violet was.”
Moira nodded in understanding.
“Violet Simons never wanted revenge, but justice,” Marcela continued, “by the time Sheila serves her sentence nobody will remember her name.”
It was of little comfort to Violet Simons, everybody knew, since she wouldn’t get Carla back. Still, that was better than knowing that the person who could have saved her daughter from dying, and didn’t, would be walking around with no punishment and enjoying an undeserved success.
“That’s poetic justice all right,” Moira pointed out and both women nodded silently. “Did you know that Dave sent an open letter to the ‘LA Confidential’?”
Marcela snorted. “Yeah, that worthless loser is like the gift that keeps on giving,” she shook her head. “Good thing that most people think that he’s nothing more than a bloodsucker that squeezed Vin for years.”
Moira nodded. “He’s pleading ‘not guilty’ and assures that his life is at risk in prison. Can you believe it?”
Marcela grinned maliciously. “Waits until the trial is over and he’s transferred from the low security Federal Correctional Institution to the high security United States Penitentiary. Then, he should start worrying for real.”
“Oh, you little twisted evil you!” Moira gasped, but her eyes were sparkling like stars.
“Compliments! Love them!”
At that, both women burst out laughing out loud.
The Carousel. NY (Later that night)
“I still keep thinking that I’ll wake up from this wonderful dream,” Chichi reached out, stroking Joe’s face, just to make sure that he was real and not a product of his imagination.
“I was scared of coming back,” Joe admitted, averting his gaze. In fact he had been terrified of Chichi’s reaction after the unexpected way he had left.
Chichi smiled warmly and, gently, he tipped Joe’s chin to meet his gaze. “I know, love, but I’m happy that you did.”
There wasn’t the tiniest bit of rancor or resentment in Chichi’s voice and eyes. Joe then let out a heavy sigh and leaned against Chichi’s hand. “It’s good to be back.”
Chichi smiled. “It’s good to have you back,” he pulled Joe to him and they hugged each other fiercely.
Minutes passed by until both men released each other, grinning from ear to ear with happy tears in their eyes.
“So, tell me, where’s that handsome redhead you got for a boyfriend, if you don’t mind me asking?” Chichi sniffed softly, drying his eyes.
At Chichi’s unexpected question, Joe blinked. “Huh? What handsome redhead?”
“James, of course,” Chichi answered in a matter-of-fact voice.
“James? James Hampton?” Joe’s voice faltered a bit at the end; he couldn’t believe it, and where the hell had Chichi gotten the idea that James was his boyfriend from?
Chichi looked past Joe at Fred who was reading the newspaper, sitting on a stool at the bar. “Fred?” he called, “Do you remember the handsome redhead’s last name?”
“Hampton,” Fred answered without even averting his gaze from the article he was reading; it was about Dave Breaux. According to the evidence that the New York district attorney had, Vin’s bodyguard would spend a hell of a lot of years locked in a Federal prison; not a nice place at all. Whether Dave would serve his sentence in Lompoc or in another place was yet to be determined.
“Yep, Hampton,” Chichi sipped from his cocktail and went still, watching how Joe’s forehead crumpled with a mix of concern and puzzlement. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“H-how…? When…?” Joe shook his head; he was so shocked he couldn’t even form a coherent thought. “You know James?” he squeaked.
Chichi nodded but suspected he had said something he shouldn’t have. “Yes, he came looking for answers,” he explained calmly, reaching for Joe’s hand. “He looked concerned and a bit confused. It seemed as though he desperately needed to know-”
“Know what?” Joe got uneasy, going on guard in one second flat.
“I needed to know what happened to you.”
At hearing James’ soft voice, Joe spun around, getting to his feet so fast that his chair fell backwards.
Chichi blinked and glanced at Fred who, slowly got to his feet as well. The club was empty, all patrons were gone almost one hour ago, but the bouncer and Chichi used to stay for a while, having a drink and chatting about this and that. Fred never closed the door, mostly because no one would come at that time of the night and people in the neighbourhood knew better than to enter the nightclub once the neon sigh was switched off.
Joe did his best to keep breathing but it was difficult. It wasn’t just that he was shocked to his core at watching James. Honestly, the stunt double had taken for granted that, after the way they had said their good byes, they wouldn’t see each other. So it wasn’t just having James here, but how damn good the redhead looked. It was almost a shame. And yet, what got Joe for real was the way James was staring at him, the complex mix of emotions the redhead detective’s eyes held; concern, embarrassment, pain, guilt and love?
“W-why?” Joe got out, swallowing past an invisible knot that came from nowhere.
James took a ragged breath. His heart was beating so fast he almost couldn’t think straight. The dead silence did nothing to ease him and Chichi’s concerned eyes and Fred glaring at him wasn’t helping either.
It was suffocating and James thought about going the way he came, and then thought better. He wanted Joe, but most important; he loved him, so much that it hurt to be without him, making of life worthless shit.
At first, James hadn’t even been aware of his own feelings, but the more he found about Joe’s past and the man he used to be, the more he fell in love with him. It wasn’t pity or compassion, but love, and that James had finally realized that it wasn’t worthy of being fought. It didn’t make sense, because he just felt miserable.
“James?” Joe tensed in anticipation, terrified and yet eager to find what was going on.
Dozen of reasons popped within James’ head, reasons that would sound plausible and reasonable, but none of them would sound convincing. It would be better to choose the simplest and yet the most powerful one.
“Because I do love you, Joe Zuñiga. I fell in love with you the minute I saw you dancing at ‘Privilege’.”
Fred knit a brow, meeting Chichi’s eyes. In response, Chichi just shook his head ‘no’.
“The day I left your apartment, I felt like shit, because I knew I was hurting you, but I was confused and scared of the intensity of my own feelings and…” James cut himself off, doing his best to put his thoughts in order and then continued. “I wasn’t expecting to see you again, I told myself that it would be for the best, but…but then, I was entrusted a job because I’m a private detective and…and your name came up. I swear to you that I wasn’t investigating you, Joe. It was just serendipity or fate or whatever…but once I came here and met Chichi,” James looked at Chichi and smiled sadly, then went on. “He told me things no one had told me before about love and…it was then when I realized that I had been fooling myself, hiding my real feelings for you. But the reality is that I love you, Joe. I just love you…”
Joe blinked, disconcerted but also a bit angry. He knew he should be madder because James had come to visit Chichi to find shit in his past. But, surprisingly, Joe found himself at a loss for words. James’ confession had left him dumbstruck.
The silence stretched and James felt his heart sinking. His feelings were unrequited. It hurt, but then again maybe it was for the better. Although, it had made so much sense…
James had known that Joe was back in NY, helping his friend Lorraine to find a place to stay. It had been by sheer chance that James had found that piece of information. He had heard Luna talking on the phone with Lorraine while in a meeting with the administrative council of ORNY to update them on the intel he had found about Val’s father, Miguel. Luna had mentioned Lorraine’s name and Joe’s. It had been then, when James had decided to search for Joe in NY, following him for a couple of days. Not stalking him, exactly, but more like working up the nerve to approach him.
Tonight, Joe had decided to go to pay a visit to Chichi, and James had thought that it would be the perfect chance to talk with him. The suspicion that Chichi might end up telling Joe that James had come to visit him, searching for answers, had almost broken James’ resolution. But he had waited for the show to end and for the patrons to leave. Then he had slip in the club, and had heard part of their conversation. It had made so much sense…but now James realized that it had been the most stupid idea he had had in years…
“I’m sorry, Joe. I-I’ll go now,” James let out a heavy sigh and, hunching his shoulders, he turned to leave.
“Wait!” Joe blurted out and, slowly, he closed the distance with James.
James turned around and found Joe standing in front of him, just a few feet away.
“Wanna have a drink with me?” Joe smiled a little and James nodded.
“I’d love to.”