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Authors: A.M. Madden

Stone Walls (31 page)

BOOK: Stone Walls
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“If you’re going to give me this sendoff every day, I’m going to have to set my alarm twenty minutes earlier.”

She has me at the door of the apartment. Her fingers clutch the fabric of my button down shirt. Every time she kisses me goodbye, adding, “Okay, have a good day,” she throws her arms around my waist just to start the whole process again. It has nothing to do with her feeling unsafe. It has everything to do with my safety.

“Babe, I really have to go.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” With one last kiss she says, “Go. Before I handcuff
to the bed and throw the key in the ocean.”

“Hmm,” I contemplate her threat. “That’s not going to get me out of here.”

“Sorry.” Another kiss, another hug, and another kiss. “I love you. Please, please be careful.” Another kiss. “And don’t forget my xo.” Another hug. “Love you.” Another kiss.

“That’s it.” I lift her from her waist, move her about three feet into the apartment, and dash out the door. Once it’s closed, I demand through the wood, “Lock it. Love you.”

She giggles and I hear the latch of the lock in the jam. “Love you, too.”

In the hallway, I snap out of Ella mode and into cop mode.

“Hey,” I acknowledge the guard outside her door.

He nods and smiles. “Have a great day.”

“Thanks.” I nod back. How can I possibly respond to that? Do I wish him a great day as he stands outside my girlfriend’s door for hours and hours, protecting her from the mob?

Fuck my life

This day will not be fun, and I’m both dreading and anxious for details to be ironed out. The sooner a plan is formed, the sooner this will be done with.

In the elevator, I glance up at the added security camera feeding directly to headquarters. I do the same with the four positioned in different corners of the lobby, each capturing every inch of the space.

An agent works the desk. His name is Grunn, Grubb? I can’t remember. I can’t keep them straight in my head. I should learn their names and get to know them. They are protecting the most important person in my life.

My nondescript compact rental car sits in the garage. I hate driving. It’s one of the best things about living in New York. No need to ever drive. I could have Rob driving us in today, but if I need to take off for home at any moment, I need to be able to without anyone slowing me down.

Rob said Andrea is freaking out over this whole thing. She doesn’t know details. He did tell her Ella’s murderer is connected to the mob. He didn’t explain who Ella is. When the time comes, that’s Ella’s truth to tell. Ella is “recuperating” at home from emergency surgery. That’s the story circulating at their office.

By the time I get into headquarters, I am in severe need of caffeine. I send my xo text to Ella adding an “I love you” as well and grab a few cups of coffee to carry into the briefing room. Farley isn’t one to supply food or drink when he keeps us locked up. I need these to get me through to our first break.

A few agents are already sitting, waiting for things to begin. There’s going to be a dozen or so all sitting around a table brainstorming.

“How is she?” Farley asks when I find a seat at the table.

“She’s okay.”

Rob enters minutes after I do, carrying his own tray of coffee. He meets my eye and smirks. We could share, but we won’t. He sits beside me and asks, “Is she okay?”

“Freakishly okay. I’ll fill you in later.”

“Okay, let’s get started. Politto.” Farley points to the fucker’s face on the whiteboard. “The objective is to taunt Politto. He’s cocky and invincible. He’s been photographed smiling directly at the cameras capturing his image. He’s a ball-busting fuck who thinks he’s above the law and smarter than it. So then, how do we get him to take the bait?”

Ella, that’s how
, I think to myself. My coffee suddenly tastes sour in my mouth.

Farley points to Razzo. “Razzo wants out. Politto won’t let him.” Farley makes brief eye contact with me before turning his back to us. “Razzo knows where Ms. Volante is.”

Rob glances my way as I sit seething in my chair. This is impossible. I can’t sit here discussing the trade of my girlfriend for scum. I regret not listening to Rob months ago, when all this shit began, and walking away from this case. I wasn’t with Ella then, I’d just met her. If I weren’t involved, would she be in this predicament now? There’s no way to know. She could have been in a much worse situation where she was on Pollitto’s radar, but not necessarily the FBI’s.

I can’t play the “what if” game now. It’s a waste of energy.

Every so often an agent makes an asinine suggestion that I immediately squash down. Release a picture of Ella anonymously. Cause an emergency at one of his gyms with Ella. Fabricate a story and deliver it with Razzo that Smyth will disclose Ella’s location to Politto in exchange for jury tampering.

Fucking morons

The last suggestion to have Ella contact Politto claiming she has a flash drive loaded with evidence against him that her mother had in her possession, has me standing up and spewing, “Are you fucking kidding me?” to the fuck-face who suggested it.


I glare at Farley and sit angrily, stewing over these assholes and their insensitivity to the whole situation.

Hours later, and we are getting nowhere. Farley breaks for lunch, asking me and Rob to stay put.

“You need to calm the fuck down.” He points a finger at me like I’m a child. “You aren’t her boyfriend in this room, you’re a cop! Got me?”


“Good. I brought you two on because you are the best in the city. You need to get your head OUT of your ass and get your head in the game.”

He’s right. I’m not helping anyone with my attitude. “I’m in the game. It won’t happen again.”

“Good.” He storms out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Rob looks at me sympathetically but doesn’t speak.

“I feel like I’m literally walking her before a firing squad.” Frustration is an understatement. I am beyond frustrated. 

“I know. But we need to think as cops, and not as two people who love her and don’t want her hurt. The latter will not save her life.” He waits a few seconds to let his words sink in. “Ben, you need to be her Superman.”

First day as an FBI prisoner, and I’m already climbing the walls. It feels like Ben walked out that door days ago. I’m bored out of my mind.

This directly involves me. I should be in that briefing room, discussing Politto’s fate with the rest of them.

As I sit on my tiny couch, facing my tiny coffee table where the BIG ASS folder of my life history lays ominously, I engage in a staredown with the damn thing.

It challenges me to read it. It mocks me.

It wins.

“Let’s recap. Politto knows Gabriella.” Farley stops pacing and says, “From here on we refer to her as Gabriella Volante, she is not to have any connection to Ella Parker.” He resumes pacing and continues, “Politto knows Gabriella survived the attack, but that’s all he knows. Once Regina was murdered, Razzo has not made contact with Gabriella in any way. We can only assume that the only reason Gabriella is still alive is because Politto doesn’t know her new identity.” Farley takes a long hard look around the room before settling his eyes on me.

My blood turns to ice. I want to be there the day that fucker is either handcuffed in the back of a squad car or shot to death. I’d like to be the person to put him in the ground.

“Frank Politto,” Farley points to the fucker’s face. “He knows he’s a dead man. He said there isn’t a doubt in his mind that his uncle will have him killed the minute he’s convicted and sent to prison. He’s screwed up way too many times. If we hadn’t arrested him, he would have been taken out by now. We are exploiting Frank’s insecurities. We will make him a plea deal, in exchange for testimony against his uncle. He would be protected during trial and put into the program once Politto is convicted.”

If he
is convicted,” one of the suits says out loud.

.” Farley levels him with a murderous look before continuing.

He turns to face the room. “Frank always reported the rent collection tallies of Razzo’s properties on a monthly basis to Politto. Through his lawyer, Frank will tell Politto there is one property that Razzo instructed Frank to ignore. We will have an agent similar to Gabriella, both in physical details and height, living at Razzo’s property. She’s being moved in as we speak, just in case Politto stakes it out for a while before striking. Razzo will communicate with the alias Gabriella, arranging for them to meet only once. It will be a goodbye before Razzo sends Gabriella away to ensure her safety. The only thing left to discuss is the date of this meeting and making sure Politto shows.”

It takes us eight hours to come up with a well thought out, step by step plan.

“A mini-command center will be set up in a spare bedroom with twenty-four-seven monitoring of all exterior exits at that location. If Politto decides to strike at night, we’ll be waiting.” Farley moves back to the whiteboard, stares at Razzo’s picture, and says, “Questions?”

The room explodes with everyone speaking at once. Farley addresses each agent calmly.

Rob leans toward me and asks, “You okay with this?”

“Do I have a fucking choice?”

“Ben, it’s a good plan. She’ll remain safe. He’ll never find her.”

My logic tells me he’s right, but my heart still doesn’t give a fuck. “There are still things that can go wrong, Rob. We are putting our trust in a bunch of fucking murderers, expecting them to lead us to another murderer.”

“Farley knows what he’s doing.”

Gazing around the room, these agents are all here for one purpose. Farley handpicked every one of them. I agree, Farley’s reputation precedes him, but as far as I’m concerned, the only foolproof plan is to throw Ella on a boat and sail away forever.

The room still vibrates with all the different conversations occurring at the same time. I quickly pull out my phone and text her my xo, wondering what she’s doing in that apartment by herself. This can’t be easy on her. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to choose a location at the beach. That’s the equivalent of tying a child up in the center of a candy store.

A throbbing headache develops at my temples. I am mentally exhausted and scared. The combination is making me want to leave this all behind and start over. I should have tried harder to convince her that leaving was the right thing to do. When I’m here, my brain is working overtime on this case. When I’m with Ella, my brain is working overtime on protecting her in every way. I want it to be over with. I just want to be with her in a
way, and not in the looking-over-her-shoulder-constantly-fearing-for-her-life kind of way.

I live that way every day. I don’t want that for her.

By the time I finally get back to her, it’s well past eight. “Babe?” I call out when I don’t see her in the apartment.

“Out here,” she says from the balcony. She sits on the chaise, covered in a blanket, staring out at the ocean. God, I’ve missed her. I’m so tense and wound tight, but just seeing her, slowly releases the knots in my neck and back.

I bend toward her for a kiss before lifting her legs and placing them on my lap to sit on the edge of her lounge chair. Even in the darkness, I can see the same tension that I carry all over her face. She looks exhausted and defeated.

“You okay?”

She shrugs and says, “Not really.”

“Talk to me.”

“Being here all day, with nothing to do but think, is a lot harder than I thought it would be.” I gently tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. She leans into my touch and closes her eyes. “I missed you.”

“You have no idea how much I missed you. All I could do was to wonder what you were doing or if you were okay. I hate not being able to talk to you whenever I want. Did anyone check on you today?”

“Yes. Chuck knocked on the door to let me know he was taking over for the night, and Farley called once.”

“He did? When?”

“About an hour ago.”

While I was driving home? The thought pisses me off a little, although it shouldn’t.

She removes her legs from my lap and crosses them beneath her to close the distance between us. “Ben, I read the folder. You know it all, don’t you?” she asks quietly.

I take her hand in between both of mine. “Yeah, babe. I know it all.”

Even in the dark, I can see the glassy evidence of tears swelling in her eyes. I assumed it was tension and stress I saw in her eyes, but it’s actually pain. It makes sense. She’s uncorked her past, and now that she knows the reality, fear is probably coursing through her veins.

“He murdered men, Ben. He did horrific things. How could my mother love someone like that? She is nothing like I thought she was.” The tears begin, a steady stream running down her face. As I wipe them away, more replace them. “My entire life was a lie.”

“Ella, the woman who raised you was real. She loved you. She gave you a wonderful life. None of that was fabricated. Your identities may have been fake, but your life was real.”

“By marrying him, she condoned his behavior.”

“You have no idea why she married him. She may not have had a choice.”

Her brow puckers in a frown. “You think he made her marry him?”

“We may never know. I do think, based on what I’ve heard you say about your mother, she had a good heart. I’d like to believe she either was forced or didn’t know who the real Angelo Volante was until it was too late.”

A tiny sigh escapes as she continues to wipe away her tears. I have no idea if my scenario is true. If giving her a false sense of truth helps her in any way, then I’ll take it. There is no way to truly know what occurred over twenty years ago. We may never know.

She pauses for a few seconds, staring past my shoulder out at the water. Without looking at me, she says, “As I read through that stuff, I wondered if I had any family left out there? From what I read, Farley was right. Mr. Razzo was very close to my parents.” She shifts her eyes to mine and adds, “Ben, I want to talk to him.”

“Absolutely not.”

Disbelief is quickly replaced with impatience. “Why not?”

“Ella, nothing good can come of you talking to that man.” I may be crossing a line. She may think that this isn’t my business, but it is. She’s my priority. “Putting you in contact with a man like Razzo is not going to accomplish anything. If anything, it will cause more questions, more confusion, more fear.”

“It would give me closure. It would help me move past the questions that are plaguing me.”

“You are forgetting he is also a murderer. He isn’t the warm fuzzy man you have conjured up in your head. The best thing you can do is to forget him and everything connected to him.”

She places her free hand over our entwined ones. “Ben, I may not have asked for this, but it’s out and I can’t hide from it now that I am aware of it.”

“We have no idea how much Politto knows. We can only assume that Razzo is being watched and that assumption will keep you away from him.”

She swings her legs over the side of the lounge and goes back into the apartment. “Ella,” I call out, following close behind.

“I don’t want to fight with you, Ben. I’m sorry I mentioned it.”

I watch from the doorway as she busies herself with the teapot. Her back is toward me, her shoulders are stiff, and her posture is rigid. I try to understand where she’s coming from with her request. I keep forgetting to consider all that she’s feeling, all that she’s hurting from. Feeling bad that I dismissed her so quickly, I stand behind her and wrap my arms around her waist.

“I’m sorry. I’m just trying to protect you.”

Her head rests against my chest as she says, “My Superman.” She turns in my arms, placing her hands on my face. “I understand why you feel that way. I know he’s no different than my father or Politto, or any other criminal out there. That doesn’t mean I can ignore the fact that he has answers for me that no one else will have. He’s my only link to my past. Most likely, I’ll hear him out and bury everything he tells me, along with my dead parents. I’m able to do that, lock things away to protect myself. I’ve been doing it for the past year. You don’t have to worry about me. But Ben, I need to know.”

I go to speak, but she places a finger over my lips. “If you are worried about my safety, Farley will protect me with every resource he has.”

“How do you know that?”

“He said he would.”

“You told Farley?”

“He called just as I was reading about my past. It just happened, Ben. It wasn’t intentional or premeditated. He caught me at a bad time, and I acted impulsively.”

I’m not sure what upsets me more. Her request to speak to Razzo, or the fact that she discussed it with Farley without speaking to me first.

Loosening my hold on her, I don’t get far when she reaches out and grabs the fabric of my shirt. “Ben.”


“Don’t be mad at me. You’re making too much of it.”

“Am I, Ella? Which part am I making too much of? Your request, which is stupid and reckless? Or the fact you confided in Farley? Who, by the way, is
interested in getting Politto?” I pry her fingers from my shirt. “I need some air.”

BOOK: Stone Walls
12.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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