Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
“Hello ma’am how can we assist you today?”
“I need to speak to Sergeant Jackson.”
“No problem. Take a seat and he’ll be with you shortly.”
Her heart was damn near hitting her chest with how fast it was beating and she was beginning to feel panicky. Don’t be afraid now. You gotta do this. Taking a deep breath, she pushed her sunglasses further up the bridge of her nose and flipped her hair over her shoulder. She slowly sat down in one of the few chairs provided and after a few minutes, a tall black man came to the front of the station. Upon eyeing her, he smiled briefly.
“It’s been a while.”
“Well, come on back. Follow me.” She got up and soon sat in the quiet and safety of his office, door closed.
“Are you here based on our discussion last time?” She sat back in the chair, legs crossed at the knee.
“I am.” He leaned forward on the desk.
“I’ve had a lot of cases to tackle since we’ve last talked but your case is one I have held close to my heart.” He looked outside the frosted glass of his office window at all the other officers going to and fro.
“You look good kid. Been takin care of yourself?” She licked her lips and nodded.
“Yeah as much as I can.”
“That’s good.” He turned serious eyes back on her.
“I remember you asked me last to look into something for you.”
“Funny you came in today because I was just looking at it.” He reached into his drawer and pulled out a series of manila folders.
“I have Mr. Antonio Rossi’s complete file here. From taking peeks, he doesn’t have much dirt himself but his affiliation with La Familia is quite noticeable. He’s been teamed up with them since he was a minor.”
“From what I’ve experienced, that wouldn’t surprise me at all.” Jackson nodded, his lips grim and tight.
“I’ve told you…about what Familia did to my family.”
“They kidnapped my daughter, sold her into prostitution and killed her.” His jaw grew tight.
“She was only 15 years old.” Her heart hurt for the young girl whose life had been viciously stolen from her. A story much like her own… except she lived to talk about it. When she spoke, her voice was soft and tender.
“I’m sorry..about your daughter…” Jackson flexed his jaw.
“When you called me and told me what happened to you… all I could think about was my daughter. Even though I couldn’t save her…if I have a chance to ensure that you survive… I’ll take it.” She tightened her hands. It was a brief pause before she spoke.
“You understand that they will not go down quietly. The risks here are very great.”
“Familia has ruined so many lives. It’s time they got what they deserved.” The bite in his tone matched the bite in her heart. They hadn’t ruined just her life…but the lives of so many other innocent boys and girls.
“I couldn’t agree with you more.” Jackson leaned forward on his desk.
“While everyone else might be bought out by the mafia, I’ll never surrender.” I’m sure he has a target on his back for that reason alone. He is the only one who has motive enough to be on my team.
“I’ll get started on the paperwork for the charges you want brought up against him. You’ll hear from me soon.”
“Thank you Mr. Jackson.”
“Don’t thank me. Justice had to be served.”
The Statue of Liberty faced him. A few weeks prior, he’d had two bodies dumped into the dark choppy waters surrounding ol’ Lady Lib. They had been informants that turned. Fingers brought a cigarette to awaiting lips. The white cloudy smoke drifted into the breeze only to disappear. It’d been so long. Far too long if you asked him. He’d nearly forgotten what her hair smelled like or how smooth her skin felt. It’d been four months. Four months with no sign of her. As if she had vanished. By now it was nearing late spring and the wind was beginning to grow warmer. Still some bite from the lingering winter. He flicked the dying cigarette into the water and slid his hands into his pockets. She had to come back some time soon. She couldn’t stay away forever. After all, the cub always came back to its home once wandering grew tiresome. He’d be there to welcome her home when she did.
“Rae?” Large brown eyes turned to look at him.
“How’d it go?” She sat on her bed, slowly peeling the flesh toned stockings off of her legs.
“It went fine. Jackson is going to help us.” His eyes watched her fingers pluck the thin material layer by layer.
“Are you sure you want to go head first into this?” She pulled it off of her foot and tossed it on the floor.
“We discussed this Roto.” He sighed.
“I know. I’m just nervous as hell about it.” She stood and gently grabbed his hand, giving it a tender squeeze.
“It’s going to be all right.” He smiled at her and squeezed her hand back.
“I know sweetheart.” He let out a big sigh of relief and let go of her hand.
“I know that you will be victorious. All we have to do is stick to what we planned.”
“Agreed.” Reaching up, she removed the wig she had been wearing.
Four months. Four long months they had been in hiding. They’d only been back for a couple weeks, laying low in a hotel under an alias. Upon returning, they were met with falsified conclusions about their whereabouts. Rumors. They were everywhere. On the news. On the trashy celebrity shows. Any and every website you could think of. “Crazed Secretary takes off with Owner of Shotouii! Insane Love Triangle between Rossi, Marshall and Iwase:Read More!” and “Love Affair: Just how long had Antonio Rossi’s secretary been working under Shotouii’s Chairman?”
The sight of it had made them sick to their stomach. But it didn’t surprise either one of them. Rossi had to cover himself somehow right? The implications were hefty and any unassuming person would believe what was said with no question. What better way to turn the tables and get the media to suspect a secret betrayal of his “secretary” and his business rival? All of it was nothing but a coward move and it showed just how much or less of a man he really was. Nevertheless, in spite of it all, fear no longer lingered in her. A voracious ferocity had consumed her and the need for justice blazed in her spirit. She had resurfaced a new woman. With resolve in her heart, she was determined to let nothing impede her.
“Hey.” Rae stood in front of him with a plate.
“You look deep in thought. What are you thinkin about?”
“What about me?” He reached up and slid some hair back behind her ear.
“You’re very strong…” She smiled a bit.
“I have to be…”
“After all you’ve gone through… you’ve still been a soldier and held your head up high.”
“I haven’t had an choice.” He pulled her closer, pressing his forehead against hers.
“I’m so proud of you.” She lowered the plate against her stomach and closed her eyes.
“Couldn’t have done it without you partner.” Grinning, he let her go.
“Yes you could have.” She lifted the plate and pushed it against his chest.
“Maybe. But I didn’t want to.” She stuck out her tongue playfully and headed back towards the kitchen.
“Ah.” He got up.
“You have this spark now…you intend to run all the way with it?”
“All the way to the finish line. And you’ll be there right with me… catchin my dust.” He poked her forehead, his dimples deep.
“Sure it won’t be you eating my dust?”
“Positive.” She retorted, a purse on her lips.
“Let’s dig in.”
“Mm.” As they began to eat, her eyes fixed themselves onto the television screen. Chaos. Thousands of brown faces in mourning. Anger. Wronged. Robbed.
“Rae, are you okay?” She didn’t turn to face him but she sighed.
“Day after day more stories of black and brown people coming up dead are surfacing.” He gripped his hashi and tightened his jaw. He’d seen the news and after a while had to turn it off from a heavy enraged heart. All around, protest ensued. Signs with big bold black letters held high for the world to see. BLACK LIVES MATTER. Hearts were heavy and grieved. All throughout the land…the very soil seemed to cry and demand the same thing… JUSTICE.
“The injustices in this country are intolerable. Innocent blood is being spilled for no other reason than an evil agenda.”
“Exactly.” He came around to sit next to her. Gently, he covered her hand that pressed firmly on the remote.
“I don’t know all that will come out of this…but I hope and pray that the lives of your people will also be transformed by your voice.” She smiled and gripped his hand tightly.
“Thank you.” He pressed a kiss to her hand. The spark inside grew hotter and brighter until it became a full flamed fire. She owed it to the countless number of young black women who had died, never given a chance to live and prosper. Lives selfishly stolen from them with no one who would step up and be the voice. This was bigger than her. It always had been. She was willing to step up to the charge.
Everything had been going to plan. Business was continuing to boom and with a no show from her, things had continued to run smooth and unhinged. But, suddenly that all came crashing down. It hit him in the most unexpected way. He had been sitting at his desk going over important paperwork about a business merger with a prestigious international corporation when it happened.
“Mr. Rossi?” Looking up from his paperwork, he found his secretary standing there, her face panicked.
“What is it?”
“Um…There are police officers asking for you. They are requesting you come to the front of the Hive right now…” He grew white as a ghost and his fingers grew stiff. A sharp needle of dread shot into his stomach. This couldn’t be good. Inching the papers down onto the desk he slowly got up.
“Alright. Thank you.” She meekly lowered her head and slowly closed the door. Alone, his nostrils flared. What the fuck were they doing here? Panic poisoned his stomach and it began to turn. Was it one of the recent jobs? Had something gone wrong? Okay… get it together. Keep it together. He swallowed tightly and smoothed his suit down. Ruffling his hair out of the messy ponytail, he cleared his throat and opened the door. As he entered the busy workroom, he met the gaze of at least four officers standing smack dab right in the middle of the Hive. Wanting to be seen. Wanting to cause attention. Whispers and soft murmuring increased as he slowly came to meet them. He could feel the eyes of all the employees on him, piercing him from every side.
“Mr. Antonio Rossi?”
“How may I help you gentlemen?” He said with a friendly smile.
“I am Sergeant Jackson. I understand that you are a very busy man with a very hectic schedule so I won’t waste anymore of your time. I’ll get right to the chase. We’re conducting a going to have to ask you to come to the station with us.” Gasps and whispers spread like wildfire. He blinked.
“You’re arresting me?”
“As of right now, we only want to question you concerning a case of a young lady. We would appreciate your full cooperation in assisting us.”
“What young lady?” His heart beat faster. Sergeant Jackson looked him dead in the eye.
“A young lady by the name of Ebere Marshall. There are charges being brought against you in the amount of Kidnapping. Attempted Rape and Attempted Murder. Should you be willing, we’d like to hear your side of the story and sort this out.” Mouths dropped open and the whispering grew louder.
“K-Kidnapping? Rape? Attempted Murder? That is ridiculous.”
“This is why we would like to get to the bottom of it. If you would sir, please come with us.” Anger stirred fire in his veins but he swallowed thickly. That bitch. All eyes were on him. If he didn’t go with them, he automatically looked suspicious.
“Sure. I want to help anyway I can.” Keep composure. He managed a smile and soon exited through the doors into an awaiting vehicle.
“How are you today Mr. Rossi?” He sat stiff and still, clutching his fingers nearly to death underneath the table.
“I’d be better if I could get back to my work.” Jackson nodded and cleared his throat.
“Well, let’s not waste any time. On the night of November 13th, what were you doing?” He felt a scowl come to his face.
“Yes, that is the alleged night that Ms. Marshall went missing.”
“What makes you think that I had anything to do with this?”
“She was very adamant that you were the main perp.”
“Do you have any evidence?”
“If you’re innocent, the best thing to do is to answer my questions fully and honestly. You have nothing to worry about.” He bit the inside of his lip.
“I was working late at the office. And then I went out for a drink with a few buddies.”
“If I’m not mistaken, Ms. Marshall worked for you correct?”
“She did. For ten years, she was one of my best employees.”
“How was your relationship with her?” At that, his face visibly twitched and his fingers grew white under the table.
“Strictly professional.” Jackson looked at him intently.
“The way you are tensing says otherwise.” His temple throbbed.
“We did have a personal relationship outside of work. But it was strictly platonic. She had become one of my most trusted friends.” Jackson nodded and continued to write down his words.
“You never came on to her or acted aggressively with her?” He snort.
“Rae wasn’t my type.”
“I see. And Mr. Iwase then?” His eyes grew wide.
“It was implied that you had an unusual amount of tension and anger towards him. Could it be because you were attracted to him?”
“That is ridiculous. I would never desire or want another man.” He leaned forward on the table.
“Men do not and never have interested me.”
“Okay… Last question: Why would Ms. Marshall directly imply that you out of all the men she was involved with were the culprit behind her kidnapping? Why would she insist that you drugged her and could have raped her without her consent or knowledge?” His throat grew dry. Shit. What was he going to say? He licked his lips and looked up into the man’s eyes.
“Perhaps out of spite, she has concocted this preposterous story to ruin and damn my reputation. Don’t let her innocence and beautiful looks fool you. She’s quite capable of fabricating a story to earn fame, money or both.”
“So you are the victim?”
“Are you mocking me?”
“Not at all. It was just a question.” Jackson stacked papers on the table and began to stand up.
“That should do it for today. Should you be able to prove your whereabouts on the night of November 13th through the 29th, everything should be all set.”
“How else can I be of assistance?”
“For now, providing an alibi is primary. We’ll be in touch. Thank you for coming in.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” He stood and shook Jackson’s hand. As he left the station he got into a limousine and dialed Peter.
“That bitch pressed charges against me.” It was quiet for a while until laughter erupted on the line.
“Did you expect her not to Tony?” He felt a vein in his neck jump.
“When and where did she get the time to do this? She’s been MIA for four months.”
“You should’ve had more faith in her.”
“What are you going to do about this Pete?” He grit through his teeth.
“We’ll find a way to cover you. What did you tell them?”
“I worked late and went out for drinks after.”
“Believable. But also predictable.”
“What else was I supposed to say?”
“No, no you did good Tony. I’ll get some guys to cover you. Don’t worry.” He slid frustrated hands through his hair.
“My whole team is now looking at me like I did it.” A muffled chuckle.
“Well… you did.”
“Pete now is not the time.”
“All right. Calm down. I’ll handle it. You just continue to do your job.”
“Your girl is home. You would think you’d be the slightest bit excited.”
“When I see her I’m going to give her a nice welcome home present.”
“She told them I raped her. She doesn’t know the meaning of rape.”
“Perhaps you should teach her.”
“A lesson well deserved for sure.”
“We’ll throw a party for her.”
“We’ll be in touch Tone.” He hung up and smoothed his hair back from his face. She unknowingly roused a sleeping beast. Now, she’d feel the consequences of her actions. Now, she’d most dearly pay.
Hands were tied and mouths taped. The barrow of a silencer stared them in the face. Calm fingers tapped on the marble countertop of the kitchen.
“Where is Rae?” Muffled replies sounded and only one was freed. Tremaine.
“Tre, where is she?” His forehead was beaded with sweat but his eyes grew fiery.
“I don’t know where she is.”
“You out of all people must know.” Brown eyes looked at the woman who had been mother to them all.
“Are you satisfied? What you did finally caught up with you Ma.” The color in Shaundra Marshall’s skin grew pale. He narrowed his eyes.
“You pushed her away with your spitefulness.”
“Tre… focus now Tre.” He turned angry eyes back on the gun staring him in the face.
“You think I’m scared of that?” Amee made a sound, her eyes wide. She shook her head no.
“Seems your sister is trying to warn you to be careful. You might want to listen to her.”
“You think comin here and shooting us gon scare us into tellin you where Rae at?” The fingers stopping tapping and slowly a seat was pushed back across the wooden floor.
“That was the plan. Just a bullet here or there. But now I’m thinking body bags for the whole family.” Shaundra shook her head, tears welling up in her eyes.
“We’ll find her regardless of if you tell us or not. We were hoping you would make things easier. But if you don’t want to do that,” The gun zipped briefly and soon Tre inhaled sharply as blood started to spread through his shirt.
“We’ll adjourn this little meeting and be on our way.” Eyes turned to the woman who began to thrash, tears flowing from her eyes.
“Is there something you would like to say Shaundra?” Tape was ripped from her mouth and she began to cry loudly.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Have you ever asked yourself the same question? Why? Why would you agree to give the child you called daughter to a man who you knew was no good? You wanted her gone and we agreed to take her from you. That’s all we’re trying to do now. The same as always Shaundra.”
“You did this Ma.” Tre grit out in-between his teeth. “You caused all of this.”
“You hated a little girl so much that you tried to ruin her life at every waking turn. How sick can you.. you be?”
“Don’t talk honey… you’re… bleeding…”
“Nah, if I gotta die for Rae I will. Ain’t got a problem with that. She my sister.”
“Even if I did know where she was, I wouldn’t tell you muhfuckas.” He hissed, turning defiant eyes back on the man with the gun.
“You don’t fear death.” The man said, truly astonished.
“Nah. But I would fear Hiroto if I were you. That man gon take all y’all fuckers out. You think you gon get away with this. I assure you…dude is coming. Both of them are gon come up soon and ain’t nobody gon be ready for it.” Tre said with a smirk. His eyes grew intense as they turned back onto his mother.
“You loved seeing her broken but she ain’t comin back broken. I promise you that Ma.”
“Enough with the chit chat Tremaine. If you’re not going to tell us then I guess we can end this conversation.” Another man grabbed the gun and pointed it right to the middle of his forehead. Tre looked up at him, his grin growing cold until he stared at him, stoic and unafraid.
“Do whatever you have to do man. Don’t know where Rae at and if I did I wouldn’t tell you. So guess that means we done talkin.”
“Hello Rae.” She shot up in bed, gripping the phone.
“Have you enjoyed hiding? I bet you’ve enjoyed playing house with your little Japanese man.”
“How did you-”
“You already know how. Don’t ask stupid questions.”
“If this is the game you want to play, we’ll play. I wonder who will win.” She grew cold.
“I’m not scared of you Peter.”
“I like you fearless baby. Oh, I’m sure you’ll hear about it in the morning but do turn on the news. It’s a little welcome home gift from me to you.” The line clicked and she got up, throwing the phone on the bed as she ran out of her bedroom into the hallway.
“Hiroto!” A door opened and a sleepy face appeared.
“Peter just called me.” That woke him up with the quickness and a serious expression soon followed.
“What did the son of a bitch want? How did he find you?”
“He was bound to find us sooner or later. Word must have got to him about the charges I pressed against Antonio.”
“Did he acknowledge that?”
“No it’s just a feeling.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me if this was the game I wanted to play that we would. And…to turn on the news in the morning…said it was welcome home gift from him to me.” Brows furled.
“Something is not right.”
“What if he did something to my family?” She closed her eyes, hot angry tears coming to her eyes.
“Bonnie?” She opened them to look into warm focused amber eyes.
“I need you to focus.” She licked her lips and took a deep breath.
“I…I know. But…if…if he did something to my family I swear to God…”
“Hey…” Lips pressed against her forehead.
“Don’t let him distract you. You have to be focused in order for this thing to succeed.”
“Everything will be okay…Everything will work out. Take a deep breath. Now is not the time to get emotional.”
“He knows we’re coming. Let him sweat a little. Now, we’re ready to come out. Been hiding a bit too long don’t you think?”
“Let’s get em tiger.” She looked up at him.
“Let’s go get em.”
“More word on a shooting that happened in a premier neighborhood in New York has surfaced and we go live there now to find out more. Jen, what’s the situation?”
“Andrea, I’m standing outside of a beautiful home in Scarsdale talking with neighbors who say earlier this morning they walked outside to find the door to the Marshall family ajar. Inside, to their horror, they found all five members of the family tied and gagged with tape on their mouths. The son, Tremaine Marshall was critically wounded, shot four times, twice in his leg, one on his abdomen and once in his arm. One of the other daughters, Amee was found with a bullet in her leg. The parents Shaundra and Kendrick and the youngest daughter were unharmed…”
“….the neighbors believe this was a deliberate attack on the family as they had witnessed strange cars circling around the home several days before the shooting…Tremaine and Amee are expected to survive…”
As he watched the news, he chuckled to himself. That brother of hers had always been a pain in his ass. Always caused problems for him. Sighing, he turned his eyes down at a up and coming project. If this succeeded, it would be the most promising merger yet. A lot of good would come out of this for all parties involved. Just as he was about to sign the dotted line, he heard a voice growl at him out of nowhere.
“What did you do?” He looked up from a project into a red angry face.
“Excuse me?” Shelley Johnson stared at him, arms crossed. For the first time since he’d known her her voice was harsh and icy.
“Did you do it? Did you kidnap Rae? Did you rape her?” Her voice grew louder.
“Johnson…I’m busy. I don’t have time for your foolishness.”
“I hope you know everyone here hates you. You think everything is good but watch it all crumble.” He narrowed his eyes.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Johnson twisted up her lips.
“You were obsessed with her. Face it. Everyone knows it. Everyone saw it. Just what are you going to do when that comes out in court?”
“In court? Are you implying that you intend to reveal this in court?”
“That’s right. I watched you ruin her life and now you want to ruin everyone else’s. I quit. And I will see you in court.” She turned on her heel, leaving him alone. Behind closed doors, he steepled his fingers together. He couldn’t let that happen. She was a danger to him… to this whole thing. He was starting to grow weary. This whole investigation was starting to take a toll on him. He’d kept up the story as much as he could. Pete had paid some guys to vouch for him. Everything had been straight. But little by little, he felt as if things were unraveling. He couldn’t take the stares and blatant gossiping. He’d tried to recover his reputation but it was only digging a deeper hole.
“Mr. Rossi?” His secretary.
“Please turn on the news the moment you get a chance.” He flipped on the news to see Rae’s brother in a hospital bed being interviewed by the police. Ah, more coverage. Good. He sat back in his chair and watched as the man spoke.
“Mr. Marshall, how are you doing?” Tremaine, who had cuts and bruises littered across his face swallowed thickly.
“It’s Tre. And I’m fine.” The reporter anxiously looked over him but continued.
“Who were the men who shot you? Can you tell us why they did this?”
“You know very well who they were. They run the city of New York.”
“Tre, are you implying that the mafia did this to you?”
“I didn’t imply nothin.”
“Why would they do this to you?” He looked straight into the camera.
“Ask Antonio Rossi.” The heart within him stopped beating and he felt a cold chill go through him. The reporter himself looked stifled.
“Antonio Rossi? Antonio Rossi of Affinity Corporations?”
“What would he know about the shooting?”
“Ask him.” Soon after that the camera panned off of him. His hand began to shake and he felt the knuckles bleach white.
Before he knew it, reporters from every news outlet in the country it seemed wanted to ask him just what Tremaine Marshall had boldly declared on the television: Ask Him. In the midst of this all, the police were visiting more and more frequently and that was putting more and more stress on him. Pete…Help.
She was sitting outside, enjoying the breeze when her phone rang. Sergeant Jackson. She answered with a smile.
“Hey Ser. Jackson.”
“We finally have gathered enough evidence to find probable cause.”
“How’d you do it?”
“I got with some people and had them do some digging. The records showing that Mr. Iwase contacted the police was a huge help. I have dates and interviews conducted by your sister Amee as well. A lot of information rests there. Also, we were contacted by a Atmikha Gupta in Seattle. It appears she had done some digging as well and found that Rossi had two previous convictions in his past that were overturned most likely with help from mafia affiliates. Lastly, not sure if you know him but a James Ciero constructed a quite substantial file documenting what was given to you, when, where and what age you were at the time… it dates all the way back to when you were first inducted into the lifestyle.” Tears welled up in her eyes.
“Thankfully, James is still alive. He is in hiding under Witness Protection right now.” A rush of relief ran through her. Thank God!
“Rossi thought that he had hid it well but he thought wrong. There is always a loophole.”
“Is there anything else?”
“From the interviews we did at Affinity, everyone implied the same conclusion about Rossi. Which leads to more than probable cause. It leads straight to premeditation. We covered all of our bases. Talked to your neighbors who said they saw cars staked outside your house days before you went missing. All of this can be proven.” She felt relieved. Anything could be written off.
“What do we do now?”
“We go arrest him.” Unexpected tears rushed to her eyes and she gripped the phone.
“What will the sentences be?”
“We’re looking at first degree attempted rape, first degree attempted murder, first degree kidnapping and assault in the second degree. All in all we’re looking at 60+ years in prison if he doesn’t get life with parole first.” She was starting to shake.
“T-Thank you for this…”
“Don’t thank me sweetie..” She bit her lip.
“We need to get Peter next Mr. Jackson. He has to go down too.”
“We’ll get him too. Most likely, he’ll have a court case like Rossi’s with a result the same. I tell you, dude will get life in prison by the time I’m done.”
“Let’s make that happen.”
“As soon as I find out more about either cases I will phone you.”
“Take care Lady.”
“You too.” Now…now the show could officially begin.
Eyes stared as two people walked into the front foyer of Shoutoii. The man sharply dressed in a tailored suit, hair smoothly framed to the side and away from his face. The woman in a dark animal print dress, a form fitting but classy look. Adorned on her ears were gold earrings and a few slender rings on her fingers. They moved as a unit, close to one another. The man’s hand gently pressed against the woman’s back as they entered the elevator. Once the golden elevator doors closed and reopened, soon the click of her heels gently sounded on the floor. Glass doors parted and in they stepped much to the shock of the employees. Some mouths dropped open.
“W-what are you doing here?”
“Did you all miss me?” Eyes gawked at the woman who stood confidently next to him.
“Reporting for duty.”
“What is going on?” A throat cleared.
“Let’s get to work shall we?” Mouths shut instantly as the two sat down and began to jump right into the affairs on the agenda. An hour or so later, they both went into his office. Behind closed doors, she finally let out a loud laugh.
“Roto you kill me…” He grinned.
“We marched up in there like we hadn’t left. They faces were so shocked…”
“That’s the way to do it.” She bit her lip and looked away.
“I know they are curious and are brimming with questions. But right now, I don’t have the time or patience to deal with them.”
“I feel you.” He sighed and loosened his tie a bit as he leaned back on his desk.
“How does it feel to be back as second in command?” She glanced at him.
“Feels damn good.” He smirked and leaned his head back. Taking a deep breath, he sighed.
“I missed this place.”
“How does it feel to not be afraid?” His voice asked, a smile on his face.
“Coming back to work puts us at risk you know.”
“I don’t give a damn.” He snorted.
“Don’t I know.”
“With things going so well with the investigation and all, I think we be all right. I don’t think they would want to do anything to mess up any good grace they are in right now.”
“Can you believe Atmikha did all that though? That’s still blowing me.” He chuckled.
“She is truly amazing. When it comes to you, she will go to war.” She looked down with a slight blush.
“I think so too.” He stood and pulled his tie up.
“Are you ready to tackle the day?”
“Let’s do the damn thing.”
“Mr. Iwase, welcome back.” The boardroom was packed to the brim with business associates and executives from at least three different countries and five states. As they entered, a representative from his branch in Tokyo stood and bowed deeply.
“It is good to be back.”
“What made you take such a long absence?” Brown eyes flickered to cobalt blue.
“I had business to attend to elsewhere.”
“That business have anything to do with your second in command? It’s all over the news Iwase.” The room grew quiet.
“As you may have heard, there were quite nasty rumors spread about Ms. Marshall and I a little while back. And as you all are aware, both Ms. Marshall and I are in the midst of a quite public investigation. However, I will ask you to refrain from any questions. In respect to us both, let us all remain business minded and focused. Is that understood?” More silence drifted across the room like a gust of wind and then,
“Glad we understand. Now,” He turned to Ishimoto Shouchi, the one he had left in control in his absence.
“How have things been?” He bowed his head.
“Stocks in the market are in impeccable standing, our relations with international sanctions are stronger than ever and our reputation is top notch.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Yes sir.” He cleared his throat.
“Gentlemen, I believe we have some catching up to do. Let’s get started.”
Antonio had nearly been pulling his hair out. His face had been plastered across every news outlet in every city. He grinned to himself. He had never learned. He always expected him to come to his rescue but soon that too would come to an end. He wanted to see how far he would go to save himself. How far could he be pushed? After all, just when you thought you knew someone, they always came to bite you in the behind.
Feet stepped onto hardwood floor as the door opened.
“It’s been so long.” Fingers drifted across the cloth of the couch. Everything was still in place. Though the table cloth and wood had some dust on it, a little cleaning would do the trick. A refreshing burst of energy hit her. Finally, she was home.
“It looks like you never left.” Smiling teary eyes turned to face warm ones.
“Welcome home Rae.” Her smile grew bigger.
“It’s good to be home.” He sighed.
“Well… I should be getting home too. I’ll leave you to reacquaint yourself.”
“Wait…you…you can’t stay?” He grinned.
“The last time we had this conversation you were intent on putting me out.”
“Well that was last time. This is now.” He bit his lip.
“Well, if you insist. I didn’t bring any clothes or anything…”
“I’ll wash them in the morning.”
“Okay then.” She went over to sit on the couch and soon he followed.
“Want some coffee?”
“Are you ready for this court battle?” Taking a sip, she looked over at him who comfortably curled his feet underneath his bottom.
“Then we’re ready.”
“Ms. Marshall, can you tell us what happened on the night of November 13th?” Inhaling sharply, she tightened her fingers together underneath the thick wooden stand. Finally, the day had come. Too soon it felt like. She was testifying against the man who had once called friend. One who had done her so wrong. She would be lying if she said she wasn’t terrified. But… it was a long time coming. She licked her lips and took a deep breath.
“I had just got done getting ready for bed when I heard a knock at the door. When I went to the door, Peter Lugiano was standing there with a sick twisted grin on his face. A face that I tried so long and hard to fight and forget…” She stopped and the strangest thing happened. She froze. She couldn’t get her tongue to work. Eyes traveling everywhere, she felt her body sweat. Speak…. SPEAK! Settling them on Hiroto, the blurring shifting room stopped and at once became still. Remember… why you are doing this… remember…
Eyes peeked through a tiny keyhole, laborious yet curious sounds from within growing louder.
“She’s still fighting. Hit her.” The sounds suddenly stopped and another sound seared its way into her psyche. A fist hitting bone, flesh and sinew. Cries rang out in the night and before she could move away from the door, it opened.
“Ah, there you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Why don’t you come join us sweetheart?” Never given a chance to protest, arms yanked her inside.
“We have no voice…no meaning…nothing…” Bruised and sore, she turned to face another young girl who had it twice as bad than she. Both eyes were swollen shut and her lip was starting to enlarge in swelling as well.
“What?” The girl sighed.
“That’s what they think…that we don’t got no voice. Or soul.”
“But they’re wrong.”
“Right…they are wrong. They beat the voice out of you if fucking doesn’t do it.”
“Somebody gon listen to us right Rae?”
Tears welled up in her eyes. She remembered that girl. Peter had beat her to death soon after that…because she dared to speak up…and fight. All she did was fight them no matter how bruised and bloodied she got. She fought. Taking a shaky breath, she closed her eyes.
“Are you well?” When she opened her eyes again, they were fierce.
“Yes. As I was saying, Peter came to my house in the middle of the night.”
“And what did he do?”
“He took me and dragged me outside. In a marked off car, there in the passenger seat sat Antonio Rossi.” Eyes fell on him, who tensed up. Her eyes too fell on him and inside was a blazing fire.
“He shoved me into the backseat, injected me with something and the next time I awakened I was tied to a chair.”
“How many times were you injected and drugged?”
“I cannot give you an exact number of times. The only time I was completely cognizant was towards the end where they had grown lazy and stopped doping me up every minute.”
“What do you remember while drugged?”
“So it is very possible that Antonio Rossi could have raped you should he have felt the desire and you would not have been aware.” She stared at him, who shook like a frail rabbit.
“No further questions.” She kept a straight face while Antonio’s defense lawyer stepped up.
“Is it true that you had a private relationship with Mr. Rossi outside of work?”
“By private do you mean intimate?”
“Ma’am, answer the question.”
“I did have a friendship with him outside of work.”
“So you had a relationship?”
“And in this relationship, did it include personal time and alcohol?” She knew where this jerk was trying to steer the conversation. She wasn’t about to let him succeed.
“I’m sure you and your friends drink and have personal time too Mr…?”
“Right. As I stated before, Mr. Rossi and I were friends. If you’re implying that we were anything other than friends, I’d have to correct you.”
“How then was your interaction with Mr. Iwase?” Bingo. This was his whole entire defense. It was weak.
“Mr. Iwase is not the subject of discussion Mr. Stefano.”
“Indeed he is. I have documents proving that you intended to bamboozle Mr. Rossi out of his money intentionally and share the wealth accrued with Mr. Iwase.” Anger heat her blood. He was a dog, lower than dirt.
“That is news to me.”
“It is? You’ve never seen these before?” He strolled over and showed her papers that looked like they were just drafted earlier in the morning. Surely, with all of his money and connections, Antonio could have done better.
“These are falsified papers. And that is not my signature.”
“My defendant claims that while after a night of intimacy with Mr. Iwase, she signed these documents and brought them to him the next day at work.”
“I would love to see your proof.” She said, arms crossing.
“Your Honor, I would like to bring up a witness who says she saw Ms. Marshall and Mr. Iwase plotting to scam Mr. Rossi out of his money.”
“Bring her up.” She stepped down and sat down by her lawyer. An older woman stepped up to the stand.
“Hello Ms. Giuliana, how are you today?”
“What can you say about the plaintiff?”
“I saw them getting intimate. That young man had her on top of a table. I thought it was vulgar to be in front of a public space like that…”
“After this what did you see?”
“Them both signing something.”
“Did it look suspicious?”
“Yes it did.”
“Thank you. You may step down. No further questions.”
“I want to beat his ass.” Intermission. Coffee in his hand, imagined drink in hers.
“Who you tellin? He actually had the balls to imply we had a relationship and on top of that had some old crusty white lady spy on us. I don’t care, she ain’t have no business being that close up on my window.”
“She long past the time to get some so why she trippin?” He choked on his coffee and coughed.
“Rae!” Pursed lips on cue, she rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth.
“He had someone sign that shit. Tryna say we conspired against him…. what the hell is wrong with him…”
“Lower your voice. Too many ears.” He said calmly, regaining his breath.
“Roto beat his ass.. just once. You could get him while he in the bathroom and we can blow this joint.”
“As much as I could love to, that would put this whole thing in jeopardy and you know it. Regardless of what he has come up with, we have irrefutable proof to counter. We’ve already won this case.” He finished his coffee.
“You’re doing so well out there…I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks.” She sighed.
“I just want this to be over with.”
“It will be. Just take a deep breath sweetheart.” The announcer spoke over the intercom, asking all parties to return to the courtroom.
“Here we go…”
“Your Honor, what is your verdict?”
“Based on the testimonies and evidence presented in this court, on the charge of first degree Attempted Murder I find the defendant Antonio Rossi: Guilty. On the charge of first degree Kidnapping I find the defendant: Guilty. On the charge of first degree Attempted Rape and second degree Assault, I find the defendant: Guilty. I sentence the defendant to a consecutive term of life with the possibility of parole.” Her legs grew gelatinous and tears fell down her face. Flashes of the cameras flashed as she made her way to the door, Hiroto right behind her.
“Roto…I did it…” He didn’t say anything. He slid his fingers between hers and slowly led her out of the courtroom. It seemed everyone followed not too close behind. Too quickly, silently, he pulled her into a dark corner and kissed her. The heat from the many voices, bodies and lights had made her dizzy but she gripped onto him tightly. She could taste the freedom, the thanksgiving and vindication on his lips and took it all in. Sooner than she or he would have liked, they separated. They stepped back into the main hallway right as the many paparazzi and news reporters flocked her way.
“Ms. Marshall, how do you feel now that this is all over?” She took a deep breath.
“I am glad that through the lies, the judge saw it for what it really was. My experience was not fabricated and I thank God he saw that. I mostly feel sorry for his family. They’ve lost a son to a system and way of life that leads to nothing but death. I’ll be praying for his mother… ” She slid on her sunglasses as Roto led her outside and into one of his company cars. Behind the doors, she let her tears fall freely and soon laughter followed. The joy she felt was intensely and uniquely her own. I did it. Now, it’s time for Peter’s ass. One down. One to go.
A few days after the trial, she decided to confront her parents. It had been a long while but she felt the chains of bondage falling from her all around. She had cut the chain from Antonio. Her parents…and then Peter had to be next. Then… then she felt she would be able to breathe. Hiroto had insisted he come with her but she told him to stay home. This was something she had to do herself. Slowly driving up to the place where she had once felt comfortable and at peace she turned off the ignition and stepped out. Going to the door, she knocked once or twice. Taking a deep breath, she waited. A brief moment passed before the door opened and a shocked expression faced her.
“Hello Shaundra.” Fragments of what was once a glass littered the floor and shaking hands curled into a ball.
“I’m-I’m so happy that you are alive and w-well.”
“Are you really?”
“Is that Rae?” Hands shoved Shaundra out of the way.
“Oh my God… Ebbie..” The smell of coconut and brown sugar flooded her senses and tears came to her eyes. Amee. She calmly stepped over the glass and hugged her tightly.
“I didn’t know what would happen and then here you are…” Her heart felt full.
“I’m so sorry y’all got hurt because of me…” Amee pulled back and wiped her tears.
“Don’t even start. We’re your family. We’d never betray you for nobody.” Her eyes flickered to Shaundra.
“I’m sure not everybody shares your sentiment.” Amee cut her eyes and pursed her lips.
“Come on, we need to catch up for real…” She led them into the living room and everyone sat down, her eyes trained on one as she took her seat.
“Where did you go Rae?” Amee asked, leaning back into the couch. Her gaze shifted to her.
“Hiroto and I went to Seattle.” Amee blinked.
“We had to go somewhere other than here. It wasn’t safe for me. And being that he found me, it wasn’t safe for him either.”
“I knew you went somewhere but not that far away.” Shaundra spoke softly, not making eye contact with her.
“Sure you tried to find me but couldn’t. We covered all our bases.” Her reply. She gripped her hands tightly.
“I’ll be right back. I have to go get that glass up.” She left the living room and soon it was just her and Amee.
“Rae, we weren’t sure what to think. I had been talking to Hiroto and then that suddenly stopped. I had no idea he went to go get you.” She smiled to herself.
“That man is crazy.”
“Nah, that was dangerous. He coulda got himself killed. What if they had a gun or somethin?”
“Roto can be dangerous when he wanna be. And ain’t nothin you can tell him.”
“Yeah when it comes to you.” The two sisters laughed.
“Rae you should’ve seen him. He was at that police station every waking moment. I could see fire in his eyes. He wasn’t going to lose you… not again.”
“How are you Rae?” She looked up at Amee, a small smile on her face.
“I’m doing just fine A. Hiroto helped me get through this and I’m just ready to deal with some demons from my past. I’m ready for a fresh start. And I’ll fight for it if I have to.”
“Whatever you decide to do Ebbie… I’ll support you… I’ll support you both.” She reached over and grabbed her hands.
“I’m glad you finally stopped ignoring Hiroto.”
“You mean fighting him?” Amee chuckled.
“Yeah that too. You two gon be together till y’all old and grey and the minute you accept that the better thangs will be.” She felt her cheeks grow warm but tightened her grip on her hands.
“How are Tre and you doin? I saw the news… those bastasrds shot you…” Amee put her hand on her side.
“You know Tre…He wasn’t gon go down that easy. He in the hospital resting up. They gon release him after a few more days. And me… well I’m fine. I’m just glad that you’ve come back home…” A throat cleared and they turned to find Shaundra attempting to smile as she brought over three glasses of berry tea.
“How have you been sweetie?” She asked as she sat down next to Amee. She inhaled and exhaled slowly.
“Did you ever think I’d come back Ma?” Shaundra nervously gripped her hands on the cup, swallowing the liquid thickly.
“What do you mean sweetheart?”
“You looked all around the world and couldn’t find me. Even betrayed by the folks you tried so hard to please. Did you sleep better at night thinking I had died?” Her fingers grew stiff on the glass.
“Rae! What are you talking about?” She leaned forward, her tea untouched.
“You tried to completely erase me from the family but yet here I am.” Her eyes grew wide.
“I never wanted you to die Rae! Wherever you got that notion is beyond me.”
“You agreeing to let Peter have me was as good as death. The fact that you agreed…says everything.”
“You know as well as I know that you hated me. Even now, you can’t stand to look me in the eyes.” Shaundra set the glass on the table with a sharp tap.
“You’ve been away so long I think you forgot your manners and home training. But that’s okay, I’ll forgive you. Since you want to talk about this, let’s wait for your father to come home.” She stood up and scurried out of the room.
“Sounds good to me.”
“Ebbie..it’s been a long time coming. Let them have it.” Amee said with a firm look as she sat back, arms crossed. On cue, good ol Kendrick Marshall came strolling in not too long after and paused once he set his eyes on her.
“Been a long time Daddy.”
“My little girl, I’m so sorry about everything…those bastards will get what they deserve.” He rushed over and hugged her tightly. She kept her hands at her sides.
“Tell me somethin Daddy.”
“What’s up sweetie?” She looked at her adoptive mother who had suddenly made a reappearance behind him as he sat down in a chair.
“Why didn’t Tanaka Ami suceed?” The fingers that unraveled his shoe laces froze.
“Who?” She slowly sat down in an adjacent chair.
“You know, the woman who was supposed to give me over to your good friend Lugiano.” Eyes slowly slid upwards to hers.
“Who told you that?”
“At this point, it doesn’t matter. I know the run down. I know you came up with the plan and acted on it. As the lawyers would say, that’s premeditation.”
“As if that wasn’t enough… you then tried to silence Amee and Tre. Like that would work. Brainwash the rest of the dummies so that they forget about the little slut Rae. You really thought that it would be that easy huh?” The color had disappeared from both of them and they were at a loss for words. She turned eyes on to Shaundra.
“Did you think I wanted to fuck your husband?” At her harsh language, she lost even more color, managing to look like a bleached apricot.
“What has gotten into you?”
“The truth. For the life of me I cannot understand how a grown woman could hate a child at all; then so much to the point where you willingly put her in harm’s way to get rid of an imaginary paranoia. It had to be something. I’m trying to figure out what it was. Because I’m not sure if you knew or not… but the same man you agreed to hand me over to to clear your conscious…he traded me in underage prostitution. He raped me more times than I can count. And he let several men have a go at me more than once a night.” Shaundra squeezed her eyes shut tightly, tears forming at the corners. Kendrick looked as though his insides had been snatched. The silence was telling. So… they knew.
“You knew he did that to me…and still you agreed to give me over to him huh? You didn’t want me to screw up your family huh? What, were you afraid I’d fuck your husband better than you?”
“Ebere!” She laughed humorlessly.
“You thought I was a good for nothing whore. Abandoned by her parents so I had to be worthless…young legs having tasted that forbidden fruit. You couldn’t leave me on the street… not for long anyway. Couldn’t have your fancy socialite friends thinking you were heartless. But deep in the back of your mind, you despised me. I was a stain that you wanted to blot out and any way you could do that you would right Shaundra?”
“Amee, please tell her-”
“Nah, don’t you do that. You tried everything you could to shut me and Tre up about this. Let her do her thing.” Amee said sharply, sitting back with a fierce glare.
“You suggested I be sent out of the country. Came up with a bullshit story about you fucking up with the mafia?” She turned to Kendrick.
“B-Baby girl… listen…”
“You two have dared to stand in my face and act like I’m bullshitting. And then act like you never wanted me gone… like everything was okay…” She took a moment before she continued,
“I should’ve known you two weren’t good for me. The minute I got here you took one look at my belly and tried to have me kill the unborn child in my womb.” Amee’s eyes grew wide as she cut them to her mother.
“Ma?!” Ma couldn’t say anything at all… the only thing she could do was pinch her lips together.
“That damaged me for a very long time. When you told me ‘Sweetie, you have to do what is best for your new family. You need a brand new start.’ Being young… I thought that was what love was… listen to your new parents I thought….Do what they say I thought.” She looked at Kendrick.
“You thought it was okay for you to coerce a young child into killing her own flesh and blood. But God knew it was too much for me. So he made me abort it naturally…He took it back.” Angry tears had started to well up in her eyes. The fury she felt was hot as coals.
“I’ve been afraid to get pregnant ever since. Thanks to you. I swear…y’all are evil.”
“What is the real reason you hate Hiroto so much?” She asked, eying the both of them.
“We never said we hated him…he just… isn’t good for you.”
“You haven’t been paying attention because if you did you’d know that there is no other man like him out there.” Shaundra fumbled over her words trying to think of something to say while Kendrick sat quiet. She pursed her lips, the tears drying.
“What I have with him is more than you’ll ever experience. And that bothered you… it sickened you…so you tried anything… You couldn’t have me be more happy than you right?”
“Ebere enough!” If she weren’t so angry, she would’ve laughed. Enough was enough. She let the building fury free.
“WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?!” Her yell was anguished and heartbroken… angry and furious. It sent chills down everyone’s spine and they all grew still. Amee sat there, tears of her own sliding down her cheeks.
“You tried every chance you got to destroy me. How does it feel to see that you failed?” Silence was thick. Until,
“I can offer no words… right now…but…I’ll tell you why Tanaka Ami never succeeded.” They all looked at Kendrick, whose hands were gripped tightly together. He sighed heavily and slid shaky fingers through his hair.
“Minako Hifune. I had been in contact with her long before we had actually sent you to Japan.” Her heart pounded in her chest. He knew Minako? Kendrick looked away from his wife.
“What?” He swallowed tightly.
“I grew up with Minako. Our fathers were in the service together and we lived on the base together.”
“You told me you didn’t know anyone female in Japan.” Kendrick ignored his wife and eyed her wearily.
“I never intended to let that man get you Rae. I contacted Minako so that she could take care of you and keep you safe.”
“I’m not understanding…” Amee butt in from the couch.
“All this time you were communicating with Minako…but kept up with the lies and everything. Why?” He sighed.
“I was trying to please everyone.”
“No that’s not acceptable. Why did you hide all of this?” Shaundra asked, her gaze narrowed.
“Shaundra, your paranoia was incomprehensible! You think every woman that I come in contact with wants to be with me, no matter the age! I can not understand it. I could not allow you to destroy her! If you knew I had been contacting her, you would’ve ruined everything.” Tears streamed down his cheeks to their surprise.
“I’ve kept this inside for years. It hurt me to see Rae like this. But it hurt me to see you act like this.” All eyes turned to the woman who had the nerve to sit in the chair frowning.
“Mm mm mm. You got played by your own husband. How foolish do you look right now…” Amee spoke up, tone hard.
“No…I ain’t tryna hear nothin you got to say right now. If I had known the extent of what you did…I probably would have cut you all the way off. Because of what you did, I almost lost my sister indefinitely. From here on out, I don’t want anything to do with you.”
“I feel betrayed too now…” Shaundra nearly whined.
“How does it feel?” She spoke up, her arms crossed. Mouth was shut tight. Kendrick turned watery eyes on her.
“Rae…baby…I’m sorry that we hurt you the way we did. I tried my best to protect you in recompense. I completely understand and respect whatever you decide to do from here on out sweetie.” Even though her mouth twisted up in a scowl, she swallowed. Because of his action, she had been able to live semi-normally.
“Thank you…for calling Minako…”
“You’re welcome sweetheart.” She sighed.
“That’s not excusing any of the other stuff you did. I need time…if we ever gon repair anything…”
“I understand sweetie. All I want is to be in your life any way I can.” She felt the dried tears on her cheeks and licked her lips.
“All your efforts were wasted Ma. Now, you are going to lose everything because of your selfishness and hatred. Everyone but you two could see who loved me for me. I’m done letting you or anyone get between us. That man has loved me through the hardest times in my life and not once has he received a thank you. But that’s all right. He nor I need you to thank him. I’m done here.” She got up and gave Amee a kiss before walking out, the door closing behind her. When she got to her car, she cried, letting years of spiritual pain come out. Another chain had just been broken. And now… the coup de gras was just ahead.
A/N: HELLO BEAUTIFULS! It has been a long while! I missed you! I haven't forgotten about you or this story (not even likely)! I just had (still having) some major life choices I'm deciding through right now. I moved in with more fam and have been workin sooo lol. A lot has happened in such a short time. But, first and foremost, thank you for hanging in there and for reading. This chapter is dedicated to the BLACK LIVES MATTER Movement, the many young black lives lost; male, female and child. Being a woman of African descent, the issues of my people resonate strongly with me and are at the core of what I do! That being said, what kind of writer would I be not to use my voice to spread the message?? Secondly, this chapter is dedicated to the many women and men who are abused, sexually assaulted, raped and tortured. Those whose voices are lost in the fray of cruelty and society. The title of this chapter is justice. Justice for so many things right?
I commend Shelley Johnson (pictured here) for her bravery. Rossi could have taken her out simply by what she said but I wasn't going to let that happen.
This chapter is heavy in a lot of ways so I will simply leave pictures and ask for opinions/review/thoughts. Thank you! Love you! God bless!
Sakaguchi Kentaro pictured in Hiroto's look:
Countless young men and women in human/sex trafficking whose names go unmentioned
..to name a few of many...