One Night Only by Samj Chapter 14

Republisher’s Note: Yesterday’s episode ended with a gunshot.

One Night Only by Samj Chapter 14

Michelle watched in horrified fascination. They’re all moving in slow motion. I thought that only happened in the movies.

You’re in shock, that’s why it looks slowed down, a detached, clinical voice inside her head explained, but she was too distracted to process the information.

It took an eternity just for Carlos to fall to his knees.

Danny’s arm followed the motion of Carlos’ body, his gun remaining trained on Carlos’ head.

The man standing behind Carlos lowered his arm as well, dropping it to his side and allowing his gun to hang loosely from his fingers.

Only when Carlos’ face hit the carpeted floor could Michelle see the blood spilling from the small hole in the back of his head.

She shrieked incoherently, tripping over her own feet in her haste to reach him. Her mind frantically recited the facts she would’ve presented had she been in the E/R. Gunshot wound, no visible exit, bullet’s probably lodged inside.

She ignored the warm, wet blood pouring over her fingers as she searched Carlos’ neck for a pulse. Unable to find one, she looked up at Danny with eyes made huge by fear and gasped out, “He’s dead.”

Danny crouched down beside Michelle and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her away from Carlos’ body and onto his lap. “I know, baby, I know,” he soothed, gently rocking her back and forth. “It’s gonna be okay.”

Carmen addressed the man who had been standing behind Carlos. “Deitz!” she exclaimed in a mixture of shock and relief.

Deitz spoke with great deference to his employer. “I’m sorry, Boss, I would’ve been here sooner, but” – his gun disappeared into his jacket – “Carlos had some men positioned outside, and it took longer than it should’ve to contain them.”

“But you have the situation under control now?” Carmen confirmed.

“Yeah.” Deitz looked down at Carlos’ body then back at Carmen. “And I’ll have this cleaned up in a few minutes.”

“No,” Bernard commanded with authority. “Carlos has caused enough destruction for one lifetime. We’re going to allow the police to handle this.”

Deitz looked skeptically at Carmen, who nodded her head almost imperceptibly. “You’re the Boss,” he muttered under his breath, wondering if Carmen and Bernard would live to realize their mistake.
“Of course, Ben,” Carmen replied, rolling her eyes at her attorney’s instructions. “We won’t say anything until you get here.” How many times have we been questioned by the police over the years? she added rhetorically.

“Thanks, Ben,” she finished, closing the cell phone and laying it on the fireplace mantle. Only then did she notice that her hands were shaking violently. With her back to the others in the room, she shielded her eyes with her right and did something she hadn’t done since Mick’s recovery – Carmen Santos broke down in tears.

While Carmen had been calling the police, ambulance, and Santos family criminal attorney, Bernard had been making calls to Carlos’ organization and the other New York and Chicago families to eliminate any possibility of a power vacuum forming as a result of Carlos’ death. Catching a glimpse of Carmen’s bent head out of the corner of his eye, however, he immediately handed the phone to Deitz and approached his wife.

Bernard stood behind her, his hands hanging awkwardly at his sides as he searched for some way to comfort her. When he finally spoke, his hushed tones conveyed the heaviness of his heart. “I’m so sorry, Carmen.” He placed his hands gingerly on his shoulders, unsure of what her reaction would be. Will you hate me for what my brother did to you? “I know how hard it must be for you, hearing about Miguel this way.”

Carmen turned to face him, running her hands over her face to rid it of her tears. “No,” she choked out, shaking her head.

Bernard handed her his silk handkerchief, then waited expectantly while she dabbed at her eyes.

“I mean, yes,” she sniffed, “of course it hurts, but….” She looked up at him with eyes brightened by tears. “I’m responsible for your brother’s death. How can you ever forgive me?”

“Oh Carmen,” he sighed, wishing he could somehow absorb her pain, “there’s nothing to forgive.”

“But you lost your brother because of me,” she protested, steeling herself against the anger and blame she expected from him. I know what those feelings can do to a person. I know what I almost let them do to me.

Bernard flashed back to Miguel’s violent and ugly death – at Carlos’ hand. He remembered the anguish he had felt, burying first his wife and then his best friend – in the span of only a few months.

“I know now that I lost my brother a long time ago,” Bernard confided sadly. “And the madman’ who showed up here tonight was a complete stranger.”

He glanced almost carelessly at Carlos’ body, then returned his full attention to his wife. “It would’ve been so much worse if I had lost you,” he whispered sincerely.

“You know, I really do love you,” she assured him, managing only a weak smile in light of the grave situation.

Bernard took a deep breath and asked the question that terrified him more than any other – “Even knowing what my brother did to you?”

“Both of us,” Carmen corrected, firmly grasping one of his hand between both of hers. “He did this to both of us” – she noticed a picture of her children sitting on the mantle – “all of us.” She gave him a more confident smile. “But we survived Miguel’s death, and we’ll survive this too.”

The other families can’t possibly believe that women aren’t strong enough to run the mob, he thought as he gazed at Carmen in amazement. They’re really afraid that the women will do too good a job. But he kept those thoughts to himself and settled for a simple, “I love you too, Carmen.”

Ben Warren’s legal maneuvers prevented the police from gathering very much information from his clients regarding Carlos’ death, but the police had several matters to discuss with Michelle – beginning with her kidnapping and ending with her efforts to revive Carlos. While she was being questioned, Bernard and Carmen assembled Danny, Nino, and Teresa for questioning of their own.

“Danny, I want to know about the deal between you and Nino,” Carmen demanded without any sort of lead-in.

Danny tried one last time to dodge the confrontation he knew was coming. “Mama, don’t you think there’s already enough going on?” He waved his hand in the direction of the police investigators.

“I want to know about the deal,” Carmen repeated slowly and deliberately. “Now.”

“Fine,” Danny sighed in defeat. I didn’t want to hurt you; you have to believe that. “It was pretty straightforward – all of my holdings in Chicago in exchange for cash and a guarantee of protection from the other families.”

Bernard’s eyes bore into Nino, causing both Nino and Teresa to brace themselves for an explosion. Although Bernard certainly had a lot to say, he graciously allowed Carmen to go first.

Carmen’s face went deathly pale, but she kept her voice down to prevent the police from overhearing. “How could you betray this family? If you needed money, you could’ve come to me.”

“It wasn’t about the money Mama. I was going to give you the money, to make up for the loss.” Danny paused, his heart constricting when he saw the pain in his mother’s eyes. “I just wanted out,” he explained. “I’ve always wanted out.”

“And I wanted in,” Nino supplied before Teresa mouthed don’t interrupt.’

Carmen ignored Nino completely, instead continuing with her interrogation of her son. “Why this way, Danny? Behind my back, involving an outsider. Why?”

Danny stared at his hands as he spoke. “Do you remember, Mama, when Mick moved to New York? You told me that I was the future of the family, that I had to carry on Papa’s legacy.” He met her eyes and asked softly, “How could I come to you and tell you that I didn’t want it anymore?”

“I’m your mother and I love you, that’s how,” she informed him. “All I want is for you to be happy.” I did all of this for you, for you and Mick and Pilar.

Bernard knew that Carmen would do anything for her children – hadn’t she proven that by marrying him to protect the boys? – including letting Danny leave the family completely, but he also knew that losing him the way she lost Mick would be a devastating blow. He saw an opportunity to make both of them happy, as well as to repair a tiny piece of the damage that Carlos caused all those years ago. “Have you closed this deal yet?” he asked Danny, still ignoring Nino.

“No,” Danny admitted reluctantly, grateful for the reprieve from his mother’s disappointment, “we were ironing out the final details when Tony Moreno showed up.”

“All right then. Daniel, you’ll hand back your Chicago holdings to your mother,” Bernard instructed, “and I’ll give you full control of Sancorp. Will that be acceptable?”

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, clearly caught off guard by Bernard’s offer. It can’t possibly be this easy. I didn’t even ask for Sancorp. What’s going on here? “Mama…” he prompted, seeking her approval. Please forgive me.

Carmen smiled at Bernard, aware of all the reasons behind his proposal. “That’s acceptable to me as well, as long as it makes you happy Danny.”

Danny rose from his chair and kissed his mother lightly on the cheek. “Thank you Mama,” he whispered sincerely. “I’ll make you proud of me. I will.”

Teresa grew frustrated and could no longer hold her tongue. “What about Nino and I?” she inquired of her father. “Danny promised us those holdings.”

Bernard still couldn’t comprehend how his little girl could run off to Springfield and marry a man known throughout the organized crime world as “the stupid one.” He decided to postpone dealing with it. “I know that the police will demand that we stay in Chicago until this investigation is finished,” he began. “You and Nino will stay here at the house with Carmen and I, and we will sort all of this out – your marriage, whether either of you should have any part of the business, etc.”

“But Danny gets everything he wants right away,” she whined.

“Enough,” Bernard warned sternly. “Believe me, we will discuss all of this in detail. Later.”

Danny overheard one of the officers tell Michelle, “We took your car from the parking lot and put it in the impound yard. You’ll be able to pick it up in the morning.”

“I think they’re done with Michelle,” he informed the group. “I’m gonna take her home now.” He kissed his mother’s cheek again. “I’ll call you in the morning, Mama,” he promised.

I may get my family back after all, Carmen realized.
Michelle’s apartment, several hours later.

The detached, clinical voice had returned. “Sex is a reaffirmation of life,” it lectured as Michelle rested her head on Danny’s chest and willed her breathing to return to normal.

Oh I’m definitely alive, she quipped, her entire body still tingling. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive.

When they had arrived back at her apartment, Michelle had headed immediately for the shower, her only concern washing the blood and sweat from her body. Standing under the hot, cleansing water, however, she had been mercilessly assaulted by thoughts and images of Carlos’ death. By the time she had emerged from the bathroom, she had been desperate for any kind of reprieve.

Seeing Danny standing at the foot of her bed, Michelle decided that he could be a quick fix to her problem. Boldly she unwrapped the towel from her body and then used her own weight to push Danny down onto the bed.

Danny had been running on adrenaline from the moment he learned of Michelle’s kidnapping, and more than anything at that moment he just wanted to know that she was indeed safe…and real. He quickly rolled them both over and helped her in her efforts to rid him of his clothing. . . . .

But now that their “activities” had ceased, Michelle could no longer push aside those distressing thoughts.

I almost died tonight. The words hit her like a physical blow, and left her reeling. If Dietz – it was almost funny to think that she owed her life to a man named “Dietz” of all things – had been delayed a few more seconds…. If Carlos had decided to “eliminate” her before he went after Nino…. If, if, if….

I almost died tonight, she repeated to herself, trying to come to grips with the statement.

Danny, who had yet to form a coherent thought, felt Michelle stiffen in his arms. “Are you okay, baby?” he whispered in her ear, knowing instinctively what her answer would be.

“Am I okay?” she parroted back incredulously, raising her head from his chest and looking him straight in the eye. “No, Danny, I’m not ‘okay.’ I almost died tonight.” She paused, still wrestling with the monumental impact of that statement. Moving unconsciously from fear to anger she accused, “I almost died tonight because of you.”

Danny refused to admit the truth of her words, even though his own conscience had been telling him the same thing ever since the kidnapping. Attempting to reassure her, he brushed hair out of her face and stated firmly, “I promise that nothing like what happened tonight will ever happen again.”

“You’re damn right it won’t!” Michelle shot back angrily, rolling off of him and then grabbing only a pillow with which to cover herself as she scooted to the far edge of the bed. “I want you out of here, Danny!” she declared, turning her back to him and planting her feet on the floor. When he didn’t respond she stood up from the bed and faced him, holding the pillow across her body with one hand and pointing toward the door with the other. “Leave, Danny. NOW!”

Danny sat up and leaned against the headboard, crossing his arms in front of his chest in a defiant posture. “I’m quite comfortable right here,” he informed her.

Furious, Michelle picked up Danny’s pants from the pile of clothing at the foot of the bed and threw them at his head. “This is my apartment, Danny, and I’m telling you to get dressed and get out.”

“You know,” he ducked the flying pants and allowing them to remain perched half-off and half-on the headboard beside him, “even if I did want to get dressed, which I don’t, I would probably need my boxers before I could put on my pants.”

“Not a problem,” she retorted, crumpling his boxer shorts into a ball before hurling them at him with as much force as she could manage.

He caught them easily, which only caused to infuriate her further. She quickly gathered up his shirt, socks, belt – even his shoes – and threw them all towards him.

“Hey!” he exclaimed as the belt buckle stung his bare chest, “knock it off.” Picking up the pile from his lap he made a show of dumped it where Michelle’s pillow had been before she had left the bed. He balled his hands into fists and pressed them down into the bed, one on each side of his body – simultaneously bracing himself and restraining his own growing anger. “I’m not gonna let you run away from me again.”

Michelle stormed over to the dresser and yanked one of the drawers open with both hands, letting go of the pillow in the process. Under normal circumstances she would’ve felt incredibly self- conscious, but at the moment her anger was overriding all other considerations.

Grabbing a pair of panties she hurriedly stepped into them and pulled them on while insisting, “You can’t possibly expect me to stick around and wait to get killed, Danny.”

“I told you -”

She cut him off before he could continue. “What makes you think that next time will be any different, huh?” she challenged, struggling into a tank top. She couldn’t seem to make her arms and head cooperate, and it took a few extra seconds before her head emerged from the top of the shirt. “You couldn’t protect me this time, Danny, so why the hell should I believe that you’ll be able to the next time?” Without bothering to put on any more clothing she spun around and locked eyes with him, reminding him, “After all, you’ve lied to me before.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you about this,” he roared in indignation.

“I wouldn’t lie to you,” she mimicked sarcastically. “Should I take your word’ for that?”

“Yeah, you should,” he answered seriously, lowering his voice momentarily. “I’ve never broken my word. Ever.”

Michelle only glared, which caused Danny to reemphasize loudly, “I wouldn’t lie to you. Not about this. Not now.”

Shaking with anger, Michelle clutched the dresser to prevent the room from spinning. “Why not?” she shouted.

“Because I love you!” Danny shouted back, startling even himself with the revelation.

Michelle tilted her head back and let out an exasperated sigh that conveyed her extreme skepticism at his revelation. “You don’t love me Danny,” she stated matter-of-factly.

Danny’s mouth gaped open at the sheer audacity of her statement. How the hell can she dismiss this so lightly?

His anger immediately overriding his shock, he snatched his boxer shorts and shoved his legs into them. “Do you think I just casually throw those words around?” he challenged, staring her straight in the eye.

“Love is more than just sex, Danny,” she lectured impatiently, rising on tiptoe for emphasis on the word sex.’ “What happened here tonight was a natural reaction to fear of death.”

“Psych 101?” he mocked, his feet tangling in his pant leg and almost causing him to fall. “I took that class too, Michelle. And I’m not stupid.”

“I didn’t say that you were,” she defended, keeping her distance because she doubted her own ability to resist him, not because she thought he would hurt her.

“I know why tonight happened, Michelle. I felt the same mix of fear and anger and relief that you did.” He popped the button off his pants in his haste to fasten them. “I didn’t say that I love you because of that.”

Why can’t he just be reasonable about this? Why does he have to keep pushing? “You can’t love me Danny,” she reiterated, trying a different argument. “You don’t even know me.”

He was completely still as he informed her, “I know you. I do.” Then he resumed dressing, yanking his shirt off the bed and putting it on, his anger still evident in every move.

The tone of his voice sent shivers down her spine, and for a moment she forgot why she was even arguing with him. But then the events at Bernard’s house came rushing back with frightening clarity, and she found the motivation to continue. “Oh really? Is that one of the skills’ you picked up as a mob boss, the ability to ‘read’ people?”

He walked toward her and lowered his voice to almost a whisper. “This isn’t about reading people. This is about you…us.” Finished fastening the last button, he reached out and brushed his hand over her cheek. “I – know – you,” he repeated slowly, emphasizing every word.

She batted his hand away and tried to step back, but the dresser stopped her progress. “I’m not falling for your lines,” she claimed, flattening herself against the dresser to stay as far away from him as possible.

“Fine,” he agreed easily, too easily for Michelle’s tastes. “I heard everything you said about Bill, and your family, and your life in Springfield when we had dinner together. Or had you forgotten about that?”

“That isn’t enough, Danny. You know why I came to Chicago, I’ll give you that, but do you know why I stayed in medicine after I got here?” She inched along the side of the dresser until she was out of Danny’s reach. “You know why I haven’t been back to Springfield, but do you know why I still co-chair Cedars’ fundraising gala for the AIDS program?”

When Danny failed to respond, Michelle relented slightly and switched to more “softball” questions. “Do you even know what I like on my pizza, or the name of my kitty?”

Danny shook his head ruefully. “You know, for someone pontificating about what love is, you sure have a-helluva-lot to learn.”

Instead of following Michelle when she stalked over toward the doorway, Danny went back to the bed and sat down to put on his expensive Italian dress shoes. “Love isn’t knowledge either, Michelle,” he pointed out, deliberately concentrating on tying the shoes. “I could know all of those things about some other woman, but that wouldn’t make me love her.”

He’s right, she realized with complete certainty. I know everything about Bill, and I don’t love him.

Danny decided to take advantage of the indecision on Michelle’s face. Sliding gently off the bed, he approached her cautiously, using eye contact and the tone of his voice to try to soothe her. “We’re connected, Michelle,” he whispered. “In our hearts, we’re connected.”

“But you’re in the mob,” Michelle whispered back, tears forming in her eyes. “And I can’t live with the fear and the danger and the violence that you do, that I did tonight.”

“I’m out,” he insisted, resting his hands on her shoulders. “So you don’t have to worry about any of that anymore.”

She placed her hands over his and asked seriously, “How can I believe that, Danny? How would I ever know if you’re really out?” She pressed her hand against his mouth to prevent his protests. “How do I know that being ‘out’ will actually keep me safe?”

He kissed her fingers, prompting her to remove them from his mouth. “Then just give me some time to show you,” he implored, gliding his hands along her shoulders and up her neck. “I’m going to run SanCorp as a legitimate business,” he vowed. For the first time since Mick got into trouble, I’m going to do things my way. “Just give me some time…” he breathed into her ear.

This is insane, Michelle. He’s in the mob. You almost died. Throw him out.

Before she could rebuild enough anger to say those words, however, a second voice spoke up in her head. You’ve been waiting for this…chemistry, this…intensity, your entire life. You threw away everything in Springfield on the hope that you would find it someday, even though part of you doubted that it actually existed. And now you’re just going to walk away?

If the mob kills me, I won’t have the opportunity to walk away, she argued.

You’re a smart girl, Michelle; you can protect yourself. All he’s asking for is a little time.

“How much time do you want?” she asked breathlessly, mesmerized by the sensations he was creating by running his tongue around her ear.

“To be with you? Forever,” he whispered directly into her ear. Pulling back to break the spell, he chuckled slightly and amended, “But I think I only need six months to pass your tests.”

Shaking her head to clear it she took a deep breath and offered, “Why don’t we start with six weeks and see how that goes?”

He gave her his best “puppy dog” look. “Six weeks? Come on, give a guy a break here.”

She couldn’t help but laugh at his expression. “You’re just lucky I didn’t say six days, buddy,” she joked, amazed that she could find any humor in the situation. You’re delirious, the clinical voice diagnosed. One step away from hysteria most likely; that’ll be tons of fun I’ll wager.

“Six months,” he persisted. “I’m not leaving here until I hear you say six months.”

“Six months,” she enunciated slowly. She took his hand and pulled him through the doorway towards the front entranceway. “Okay, I said it. Now get out of here before you lose the six weeks I agreed to.”

“Six months,” he sing-songed, padding along behind her but also playfully dragging his heels in a token resistance.

She let go of his hand to unlock and open the door. “You never give up, do you?” she asked in feigned frustration.

“See, you’re learning about me already,” he grinned, leaning against the doorframe and wrapping his arms loosely around her waist. “How about dinner tomorrow night?”

“Call me around lunchtime tomorrow,” she suggested, reaching behind her back and unclasping his hands. “I’ll let you know then what my schedule is like.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay with you tonight?” he asked seriously, sure that a terrible mixture nightmares and sleeplessness would plague her when she tried to sleep.

She glanced at the police officer who had been assigned to guard her until the details of Carlos’ death were fully investigated. “I’ll be fine, Danny,” she assured him, returning the officer’s nod of acknowledgment. “Besides, I think having a policeman outside the door will be more than enough drama; I really don’t feel up to introducing my roommate to the head of the Santos mob operations.” Your roommate? Your parents will probably have you committed to the psych ward when you tell them; compared to that, Katie will be a breeze.

“Ex-head,” he corrected somewhat defensively. “I’m just your run-of-the-mill CEO of an ordinary, legitimate multi-million dollar corporation.”

“Yeah, well, she has six weeks to find that out,” Michelle replied, nudging him into the hallway. “Provided that you convince me of it first.” I’m not going to let you charm me into being with you if it means putting my life in danger.

She isn’t going to give me an inch, he thought, simultaneously frustrated and intrigued by the challenge she presented. But she’s definitely worth it.

“I will, Michelle,” he promised. “Trust me, I will.”

“Good-bye, Danny,” she called out, waving and slowly closing the door.

“Six months,” he tried one last time before she disappeared from his sight. The officer having already summoned the elevator for him, Danny entered the car and punched the button for the ground floor, faintly humming the tune to which he and Michelle had danced in his hotel suite as he did so.

Michelle, meanwhile, leaned against the door of her apartment until she heard the elevator descending, then went to the kitchen to put the kettle on to boil. She knew that she had a long night ahead of her, and she hoped that a cup of herbal tea would help to calm her nerves.

While she waited for the water to boil, she picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number. “Father Patrick, please,” she requested, wedging the phone between her ear and shoulder and grabbing a clean mug from the dishwasher. Father Patrick had been the priest at St. Mary’s parish for most of Michelle’s life, and he had been a trusted confidant ever since Michelle had entered high school and discovered that a child for whom she babysat was being physically abused by his mother.

“Hi, Father Patrick, it’s Michelle,” she began, reaching into the cupboard for the honey.

“No, I’m still in Chicago,” she replied, “and everything’s fine at the hospital. But I do need to talk if you have the time. There’s a lot going on right now and it’s….” She stopped, at a complete loss for any way to characterize the bizarre events. “I just really need someone who’s more objective’ to help me sort things out.” Because Danny makes me anything but objective, she added silently to herself.

“Great,” she sighed in relief, removing the whistling teakettle from the stove. “It all started a few weeks ago….”
They talked into the night, and when Danny called the next day at exactly twelve noon Michelle agreed to have dinner with him.

As she hung up the phone she couldn’t help but grin. These may turn out to be the best six WEEKS of my life.


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