Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis Chapter 32

Republisher’s Note: Mick’s death still left a secret that will haunt Danny and Michelle. He killed another member of a crime family while in Puerto Rico for Manny’s wedding.

Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis – Chapter 32

   “Michelle, you or I have to go to Danny. The sooner this is addressed, the easier it will be for you. Danny can go to Carmen.”
“The time isn’t right for you or me to speak with Danny. He is grieving the loss of his brother; plus I am the new outsider in the family.”
    Sitting across from Michelle, “Michelle are you willing to risk your health and the twins to wait for the perfect time?”
“Ray, I am weighing my options. Right now, Mick is dead and he can’t hurt me from the grave. If I draw attention to Mick being at the wedding then it is possible to open up a can of worms that I might regret. When people are alive, you see the good and bad but when they die early deaths, they take on the role of saints or martyrs.”
    “Michelle, Danny may be grieving but you are the woman with the dagger in his heart. Keeping what you see from him is wrong in his mind. In Puerto Rico, Danny was specific with me in how I was to deal with you. Michelle, your husband has tunnel vision where the family is concerned. Sometimes, I think my cousin fantasies that his position in the family is normal, but he seeks to control everything. Danny doesn’t like to experience the unexpected. I am blood kin and he sets his limits with me involving you. Only religious issues are in my department. Any problem was to be taken directly to him.”
 “Ray, I am walking a tight rope between you and Danny.”
“Get off the rope.” Imitating walking on a tight rope, Father Ray pushed the wheel barrel to the next feeder. “You don’t know when a big gust of wind will blow from a direction causing your life to blow up in front of your face.”
    Lifting her curly hair off her neck to let the breeze blowing from the lake reach the skin on the back of her neck. “This is serious isn’t it, Ray?”
“Michelle, Mick was always trouble. I am no longer privy to the inside operations of the family but if Danny was sending Mick down to Antarctica; Mick’s life was on the line.”
    Danny walked up from behind Ray and Michelle, “Missy, aren’t you suppose to be resting in bed?”
“I’m headed in that general direction.”
“Ray, can finish his bird business without you today. By the way, where is Olga?”
“I sent her out on errands.”
“I’ve cancelled the Thursday card game this week.” Wrapping his arms around Michelle’s extended abdomen, “Specifically to keep you confined in bed. Matter of fact, Ray, my office will be here indefinitely from 1pm-6pm. My new job description is enforcer of bed rest.”
“This is a change from what you have told me earlier, Danny.”
Danny lifted his eyebrow questioning his wife’s response. “What am I missing, babe?”
“Swimming and making love in bed.”
“The pool will be closed down in a couple of weeks, which will eliminate the swimming.”
“The best is left on my agenda.”
“I have to work to keep you dressed and fed properly.”
“I want the pool to be kept open later than two weeks.”
“Honey, the falling leaves will fill the pool and clogged the filter. It isn’t worth the effort in my opinion but I will take it day by day. I hate to see the summer days coming to an end but the calendar says fall is here, Missy.”
“I hate to leave you two cousins alone but I am going to rest for the afternoon.”
“Michelle, I’ll check on you later.”
Watching Michelle walk back by the pool and up the steps, “Michelle’s appearance is deceiving. I talked with Dr. Sedgwick this morning. Michelle has toxemia. Sedgwick is thinking Michelle will spend the last months of her pregnancy in bed or the hospital.”
“Does Michelle know how serious this diagnosis is for her?”
“Ray, Michelle is determined to have the twins and function as a full time medical student. I want to keep her life simple and stress free. I bought a group of tickets for the Cedars Fall Ball. It may be Michelle’s last social outing until the birth. Would you like to escort Carmen to the function?”
“When is the ball?”
“October 31 the weekend after the homecoming game at Princeton vs. Harvard.”
“Will Michelle go with you to the game?”
“I’m going alone and returning the next morning.”
“Why not do something special for Michelle?”
“Ray, it is a football game with both of my alma maters. Michelle would be bored with the guys. After the twins are born, I’m taking her to see the Russian Ballet in NYC.”
 In the distance, Danny heard the screen door shutting providing Danny with the assurances that Michelle was well away from hearing the conversation. “The FBI paid a visit to the downtown office today.”
“What are they snooping into this time? The Feds didn’t come to express their condolences.”
“Nope. The accident is suspicious in nature with Mick and Theresa’s death.”
“The meatheads wanted to know why Michelle wasn’t at the funeral. I told them the truth that Michelle wasn’t well and had a complicated pregnancy. The guys asked lots of questions about why our wedding was in Puerto Rico. Who attended our wedding and if there was bad blood between the Sandovals and other warring factions in the other families?”
“Danny, are they suggesting the wedding was set up for a staging ground for a hit?”
“Ray, you are aware that Nino Sandoval was taken out in San Juan?”
“Yes, I saw the paper down there. Danny, do you need to talk with me in the confessional booth?”
“I had nothing to do with Nino’s death.”
“I believe you, Danny, but you know who killed Nino.” The silence between the cousins answered Ray’s question. “Are you expecting the FBI to talk with Michelle?”
“Yes and very soon. I used Michelle’s bed rest for the reason why I am home in the afternoons but I won’t allow the FBI to scare Michelle.”
“Cousin, you are long over due for a confession. I want to see you tonight at the church. We are both sitting on a time bomb. It all clicked in my mind when you told me of the FBI visit. I know where the evidence is that connects all three deaths. It must be destroyed.”
“Ray, where is the evidence?”
“It is right under your nose, cousin.”
“Can I get my hands on it now?”
“I don’t know but I know who knows where it is hidden.”
Carmen walked each side of the room many times before beginning the dreaded task of sorting through Mick’s belongings. The painter had been contracted to begin painting tomorrow. Dietz and Jimmy were moving the cherry furniture to the attic for storage. Mick had few items in the room besides the suitcases packed for the trip to Antarctica. Sliding the zipper back to open the large tote bag, Carmen saw the gold-framed picture of Danny and Michelle. The light from the burning candles hit against her daughter-in-law’s face perfect. Carmen dropped the frame to the floor when she saw the photographer had captured Mick’s face in the frame, posing as a Priest. Yelling for Dietz, “I’m going to Danny’s house immediately.”
Dietz spoke in his normal monotone voice, “Carmen, shouldn’t you call Danny before you draw attention to the picture? Find out from Michelle or Danny how many pictures are out there. I’ll make sure they are destroyed.”
“Dietz, have you completely lost your mind! It isn’t only the pictures that prove Mick was down in Puerto Rico but Michelle knows. With the FBI digging into the accident, it is only a matter of time before they are visiting Michelle. In the car, I will alert Daniel to my visit. I don’t know what that girl may know but if the FBI get a hold of her; she can destroy my family.”
At the house, Danny shuffled papers waiting for his mother to walk in through the door. The tone in Carmen’s voice indicated the seriousness of the meeting. Carmen was stepping out of character to want a meeting out of her house. Danny stood up from his desk and walked to his bedroom. Michelle was sleeping on her side with her arm draped over the pillow. Closing the door to bedroom, Danny heard the sound of the clicking heels on the stone steps.
“Carmen, you are breaking one of your steadfast rules.”
“Daniel, I am well aware of what I am about to do. You are head of this family. It is about your wife.”
“What has Michelle done that you find irritating today besides suggesting a Martha Stewart make over for the house?”
“This isn’t funny, Daniel.” Opening the paper bag, “Who gave this picture to Mick?”
“Carmen, Mick asked Michelle for this picture specifically. I was here when Michelle gave it to him. Michelle suggested a plastic frame for the travel down to the ice. It looks like Mick thought more of the picture since it has been framed in an expensive frame.”
“Daniel, please look closely at the face of the priest in the back ground.”
The words out of Danny’s mouth were curse words for his dead brother.
“Now do you see why I am here?”
Slinging the picture onto the sofa, “Yes and if my brother wasn’t dead; he would be by tonight. Mick’s deed has put Michelle and the rest of the family in danger. Carmen, I spoke at length with Michelle’s doctor this morning. The pregnancy is considered high risk and the word, which keeps jumping up on the radar screen for treatment is Limit Michelle’s stress that includes physical and emotional.”
“Daniel, you have no other choice. The risk is enormous but the survival of your family is greater. Michelle may miscarry when she learns the truth but she can become pregnant again.”
“You are cold and ruthless to suggest the risk of telling Michelle out weighs continuing to keep the secret from her.”
“Danny, I didn’t mean to sound cold but Michelle has to be added to our circle to protect the family. If the FBI grabbed her at the hospital or somewhere in between there and home, she may be persuaded to talk about discovering Mick was at the wedding. Right now, we are united in what we are saying to the FBI.”
Breaking the pencil in his hand, Danny looked down at the circle drawn on the piece of paper. “Our circle has grown to include at least seven-eight people. Add the photographer, Michelle, Michelle’s family and possibly Father Ray.”
Asking Danny, “How did Father Ray and Michelle’s family get in the circle?”
“Michelle gave her family one of the three sets of wedding pictures. Ray was here earlier today and it was something he said to me. I’m meeting him in the confessional tonight.”
“Thank goodness Ray had the head on his shoulders to think about using the priestly vows to protect himself and you.”
 Carmen picked up the picture frame, “I will destroy the evidence.”
“No, Carmen leave it here. I want it here when I talk with Michelle. You destroy yours. Send your man Dietz to Puerto Rico on the leer jet today. I want all the negatives of that frame destroyed.”
“And when are you going to talk with Michelle?”
“I have to speak with Ray first.”
Danny parked his car in the empty parking lot at the church. Fidgeting with his car keys, he dropped the keys in his pocket. Danny pulled the metal door opener toward his body and glanced around outside to see if he had been followed before stepping up inside the door. The sound of his shoes hitting the marble floor ricocheted inside the walls. The man dressed in the long flowing black robe stepped in the opposite side of the confessional. Danny sat down inside and closed the door. “Father, I have sinned and it has been a long time since my last confession.”
“Go ahead list your sin before God that you may be forgiven by God.”
“I arranged for my brother to escape retaliation from another family and lied to my wife. My brother killed a man in San Juan. I hate my brother for his sin has placed my pregnant wife in a very dangerous situation. I believe my wife has evidence that can place Mick in Puerto Rico. I am going to ask her to lie not to protect herself but to protect my mother, sister, grandmother and myself. I hate what I have to do to her. I am afraid the shock of knowing her brother-in-law was a murderer will have adverse affect on her pregnancy. She married me to protect the babies that she was carrying. If she looses the babies, I may lose her also. My mother discovered a picture from our wedding in Mick’s luggage. The picture is the one, which Michelle gave to Mick. He is disguised as a priest. My predicament is how do I protect my wife and our unborn babies and still tell her the truth.”
“Danny, you have to be honest with Michelle and most of all trust God to protect what you cannot protect. Maybe God is using this to draw you closer together instead of creating a deeper chasm to separate you.”
“Ray, God is punishing me for the way I manipulated Michelle into this marriage. God is going to take her and the babies from me.”
“Where is this coming from, Danny?”
“I didn’t tell you my worse sin. I am jealousy of the twins. I hate how they are distorting Michelle’s perfect body.”
“Have you discussed any of this with Michelle?”
“Yes and we have talked about birth control in the future.”
“Danny, you know the Pope’s stand on this issue.”
“But Michelle isn’t Catholic, which will provide an out for the use of birth control pills. Ray, what type of man would be jealous of his own children?”
“Danny, it is serious but God speaks of having this emotion himself. God’s first commandment deals with jealousy. He understands jealousy for he says ‘I am a jealous God’ and you are to have no other gods before Me. You must ask to be forgiven of the sin for the iniquity of the fathers can be passed down to the children to the third and fourth generation. Danny, you and I fall into the third generation of the sins from our grandfather.”
“You want me to accept the readings in an old book of the past sins being passed on generation to generation from our grandfather, our fathers to us. When does your God ever stop punishing the children?”
“It can stop in this generation if you are truly ready for the iniquity to stop. The next verse in the Bible says, ‘but showing loving kindness to thousands; to those who love Me and keep my commandments’. How blind are you Danny that you can’t see God is using Michelle to break your love of money and power? It is a curse on the Santos family. The power and money is the Santos god. Michelle is the light shining in the ugly darkness. Danny, God will win in the end. He will take what you want the most to break your pride. Fortunately, God is giving you time to change. Listen and ponder what we have talked of in the confessional box.”
“Ray, I didn’t realize how much I wanted all three until this afternoon. Michelle is doing everything to hold onto the twins. Now, I have to tell the truth to protect her from my family business. It will destroy any trust that she ever had in me protecting her from a mob hit.”
“Here you go again, you are trusting your abilities to do the impossible. Trust God for once, Danny. You may be giving her answers to the dreams and nightmares, which are tormenting her.”
“So Michelle came to you with the Mick problem?”
“Danny, I told you all that I can. Michelle is an adult woman perhaps wiser than her age would indicate. She is committed to this marriage and will listen to you, Danny. I haven’t promised what her actions will be but I have a gut feeling this will explain Mick’s dream to her. The stress of wondering what the secret is in a box will be gone or at least the power of Mick will be reduced.”
“Are you going to give me absolution from my sins?”
“Daniel, I suggest you read the Ten Commandments ten times in your home and ask God to guide your future with Michelle. I’m not sure the absolution, which I give is really what you are seeking.”
“Ray, I need a priest that isn’t close to the family operations.”
“The same God is head of all of his churches. Go and sin no more, Danny.”
“I am a man Father Ray.”
“And you are made in the spiritual likeness of God, he wants you to seek him daily. The confessional is open daily for all; for we all sin.”
The drive back home seemed to be shorter after Danny stopped at the Y2K club for a drink. Sitting at the same table, Danny replayed in his mind the night he first met Michelle. The smiled crept on his face when he remembered her struggle to fasten the top of the convertible down. He saw her image at the bar talking and laughing with friends her own age.  The sound of music from their first dance when they connected physical and they were both lost in their world. The intense desire to bed her in the seat of the car in the parking lot was over ridden by breaking his own self-imposed rule. Instead he took Michelle to his own bed where he made love all night to a virgin. The night was vivid in detail. They created the twin life growing in Michelle’s abdomen that night. Receiving the fax in the morning, he had searched and spotted the weakness in her family. He manipulated and schemed to have Michelle. In the next hour, he might loose Michelle. For Michelle was going to come full circle with the dark side of the Santos family.
Pouring the whiskey in the glass filled with ice cubes, Danny rehearsed in his mind the words that he had practiced. Sipping the smooth drink, Danny walked down to the pool. The splashing sound of water came from the edge of the pool where Danny watched Michelle execute the flip turn. Danny marveled at her swimming strokes and rhythm breathing. The gentle movement of her head as she rotated to take a breath of air from the side without missing a stroke; in one of those breaths, Michelle saw her husband standing at the side of the pool. Michelle stopped swimming to tread in the water. “Are you going to join me in the pool?”
“No, I thought you might like to eat some dinner. Have you eaten dinner?”
“I had a cup of yogurt earlier. You should come in the water.”
“I’m not interested tonight.”
Michelle unfastened her bikini top and threw it in the water. “Come on in and help me find the top.”
“Michelle, dive down and get your top.”
Splashing water on Danny’s leather shoes, “I’ll get your shoes wet.”
“Honey, you already have got them wet.” Diving down and coming up next to the ladder, Michelle climbed out topless. Danny draped the large white towel over her shoulders by pulling Michelle close into his chest. “Your hair smells of chlorine. Did you add to much to the pool today?”
“The dispenser must not be working. I’ll have the maintenance man come out tomorrow to check the system.” Pleading with his eyes, “Why don’t you get a shower while I fix dinner? After we eat dinner, we can listen to music and go to bed early.” Sliding her nails across Danny’s lower lip, “You haven’t forgot that Dr. Sedgwick said that we could be intimate again?”
“I haven’t forgotten. Hum, what is the aroma coming from in the oven?”
“Garlic bread with fresh Parmesan cheese melting on top of vegetarian chili. Here, you can toss the salad.”
Picking up the glass, Danny added ice to the glass and refilled it with whiskey.
“Danny, you are going heavy on the booze tonight?”
“This is only my second drink here tonight. When did you become the counter of my drinks, Michelle?”
“Okay, what is going on here tonight?”
“Honey, you and I are going to eat dinner and then go into our bedroom.”
“The rate you is consuming the liquor; you will be drunk before you make it to bed.”
“I’m not drunk yet but I may have another drink before I eat.”
 “Danny, you never drink to get drunk. I want to know what is wrong?”
Taking Michelle’s hands in his hands, “I love you too much.”
“Danny, you can never love me too much.”
“Ray told me tonight that I love money and power more than God but he is wrong! I love you more than God.”
“Danny, you are drunk and the liquor is confusing your thoughts.”
“Yep, I may be drunk but I do know who I love. Did you know it is a sin to worship other gods, the big guy in the sky is a jealous God? God is the creator of all the universe and he is jealous of my love for you. And now, he is going to take you and the babies from me because my grandfather, father sinned.”
“Danny, you need to eat something to neutralize the affect of the liquor on your central nervous system. God isn’t going to take me from you, Danny.”
 “I read it myself at the library. I checked out a Bible in the library tonight. It is in the list of Ten Commandments. The iniquity of the fathers is passed on to the children to the third and fourth generation.”
“I’m calling Ray, you are drunker than you think, Danny.”
 “I have a gift of Mick’s, which Carmen returned today. But you already know he was at our wedding. Right? Answer me Michelle!”
“Yes, I knew Mick impersonated a priest.”
“Well babe, he did worse than impersonate a priest. Mick killed Nino Sandoval…Aren’t you going to scream and tell me how terrible the Santoses are for committing murder? It is a curse that will pass on to your children if the God that Ray serves is right. It is a blood curse.”
“No Danny, the curse will not pass to my babies. It stops in your generation. I know your heart and I have seen into your soul. You aren’t like Mick. From the beginning, you made better choices than Mick. Mick was a sick young man. He was damaged physically in the central nervous system and emotionally, he was an immature boy walking around in a man’s body. Danny, we can’t give him power from the grave to destroy our marriage. At least I know what he wanted me to tell me. When he killed Nino, Mick was still considered toxic. I want to believe when he died he was making progress. Mick was just beginning his road to recovery. Danny, you have to tell the authorities what Mick did to Nino.”
“Michelle, we can never tell anyone. The Sandovals have lost two children. One at the hands of a Santos. If they find out, there could be more blood shed. What Mick did to Nino, has to stay in our family circle. The FBI is hunting to connect Mick to Nino. We have to destroy all the pictures with Mick in them. But the FBI will want to talk with you soon. Michelle, we have to figure out how you can answer their questions without lying to them.”
“Danny, I never saw Mick in Puerto Rico at our wedding. If they ask me, I will tell them the truth.”
“Are you sure that you can do this?”
“Yes, I want this tragedy to stop for all the families.”
“Honey, the FBI will appear when you are least expecting them. They are experts at asking questions. All their questions lead to another question. I have to destroy the evidence and you have to get the other picture from your family’s wedding album. I have their album here and I hid the picture in the chicken food at the hen house.”
Laughing in a drunken stupor, “It is in the hen house! God bless the rooster and henhouse. Please go and get the damn picture, we are going to shred the picture now and have a big fire in the sink. And wash the ashes down the sink to the sewer.”
“Wait for me here, I’ll be right back.” Taking the half-emptied whiskey bottle off the counter, “You have had enough booze.”
Grabbing at Michelle’s arm, “Baby, forget the damn picture. I rather we went to the bedroom.  I want to make love to my wife.”  Smoothing Michelle’s hair back behind her ears before clasping his hands on Michelle’s head. His lips found Michelle’s lips.
Pulling her lips away from Danny’s lips, “Your breath wreaks of whiskey. I’m not going to let you make love to me in this condition. We have a more pressing problem. Stay in the house and I’ll go to the henhouse.”
In the dark, Michelle walked to the outdoor building and unlatched the small door to the storage shed. The odor from the corn grain permeated Michelle’s nostrils while she poured the grain in the wheel barrel until she reached the picture at the bottom of the bag. Tearing the picture into pieces, Michelle sat down on the floor and cried into her hands. The realization of how dangerous Mick was to her and the children in her womb was seeking in quickly. The irritation of having to lie to the authorities was frightening. Meta’s words were coming true. She was for the first time choosing Carmen and Abuellá’s behavior over her family values. Michelle prayed to God. Please God; I have to protect my unborn babies. I am helpless and I’m afraid of becoming like Carmen and Abuellá but I don’t see anyway out of this situation. When the authorities come, please let them ask questions, which I can answer truthful. Your words in the Bible say that you will be with me daily as I walk in a relationship with you. I am reminding you of your promise to believers. Amen.”
Getting up from the floor, Michelle returned to the house. “I have it.”
“Good girl.” Danny took the pieces of the torn picture and the one from the frame and pushed them into the automatic shredder. Dumping the contents in the sink, he placed the burning match on the shredded pictures and watched the fire consume the evidence. The cold water washed the ashes away and out of sight. Sprinkling the Comet in the sink, Danny scrubbed the sink spotless. Danny looked up at Michelle and whispered the words, “Thank you.”
Danny and Michelle ate the chili in silence. “The chili is mild. Where did you pick it up?”
“I stopped over at Company after I had a few drinks at Y2K.”
“I don’t want to hear how you boosted your male ego tonight. Danny booze didn’t take the anxiety or pain away tonight.”
“No, but it did take the edge off of having to tell you about Mick. Essentially, I have added stress to a person where stress is festering. Michelle, the news of Mick will flame the stress of the pregnancy.”
“Danny, I have heard gibberish from you and if it is possible can we please find a mutual subject where I can gleam hope. Actually, I feel goose bumps on my skin. I’m going to bed.” Pushing her chair back and standing up, “In the future and until I can come to grip with our family secret, I won’t allow Mick to be discussed in my home.”

Adjusting the sheet and blanket on the bed, Michelle pulled the covers up to her neck. Facing the window on the lakeside, Michelle saw the light blinking from the lighthouse. On the other side of the lake was the security of a home far from the home she lived in on this side of the lake.

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