Story Title: Redemption
Summary: Sometimes, even those who commit the very worst of crimes are worthy of redemption
Word count: 9601
Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong solely to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended
Victoria Evenson was a beautiful woman, much younger than my father. I didn't want anything to do with her, but despite my desire to hate both her and her child, I found myself falling into the big brother persona for Esme. At only eighteen she was beautiful and innocent, and had inherited my father's green eyes and auburn hair. She was clearly my sister, as I had those traits too. Unable to look at Victoria, especially after I found out that she had been my father's mistress long before my mother died, I sent her away, but allowed Esme to stay.
Not only was she beautiful, she was also clever and managed to infiltrate every aspect of my life, running my house seamlessly. In return, she wanted for nothing, and she was the only person I loved with all my heart. So, when she met Carlisle Cullen, one of my made men, I was unable to deny her when she insisted she wanted to marry him. He was a smooth bastard, and I had always believed he wasn't good enough for her. But she said she loved him, that she couldn't live without him; she said he was her soul mate and anything she wanted, if it was in my power, she would have it.
After a lavish wedding, the happy couple moved into my house and I had to admit Carlisle was proving to be a great help to me. Christ, even Jasper and Emmett McCarty, the two men I trusted more than any other, approved of him. And slowly he earned my trust, becoming like a brother to me.
And now we were here! Damn it, he'd put me in an impossible situation.
Carlisle hung by his hands from the metal rail embedded in the ceiling, tied so tight he was only able to just touch the floor. Even bound and gagged he look was still defiant. I knew he wanted the chance to exonerate himself, but I needed the time and the silence to rein in my temper before I did something I would regret.
Hunter, who had brought him in, piped up in his whiny little, ingratiating voice, "He was with her again, boss. All cuddled up and inti ... inti ... close, like! Showed you the photos, I did." He crowed that last part at Carlisle, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye.
I glared at him and he shut up, quickly. I always hated the way he sucked up, but he was loyal. No doubt, he was too scared to be anything else.
I pulled said photos from my inside pocket, looking at them again, hoping to see something other than the truth they showed. My heart hurt for Esme, she loves him so much; how was it possible for him to do something like that to her? She was the love of his life, or so I'd heard him say a hundred thousand times.
And then there was the intel from Black; he had been seen sneaking meetings with Aro Volturi, my biggest and most hated rival, and that gave rise to questions for which I was sure I would not like the answers. Surely, Carlisle wouldn't risk double dealing, would he?
I knew I should never have trusted him!
Turning to Alec, I grated out quietly, "Go get the girl. I want her back here with no damage."
Inclining his head once, he left without a word, knowing what I wanted him to do.
Stepping toward Carlisle, I let out a little of my temper and ripped the gag from his face.
"What do you have to say, Carlisle? Why would you wanna cheat on my sister?"
"I'd never do any such thing, Edward, and if you thought about it for one second, you'd know it's not me. I've been faithful to her, and damn it, to you, for years so why would I throw all that away on a girl?" His voice was quiet but fervent and I wanted so much to believe him.
"Who is she? Tell me the truth, Carlisle, or so help me my sister will be a widow by tomorrow morning."
"I'm sorry, Edward, I can't tell you. She's important, though not in the way you think, and if I tell you anything she will be in too much danger. Please, Edward let me go, let me do what I can to save her, she's important." He was almost begging now and I was even more confused. He had given me nothing that led me to believe in his innocence.
I changed tack, "What about Aro? Why are you having secret meetings with him?"
His eyes widened as he realized just how much knowledge I already had, and I saw the indecision in his eyes. Maybe an extra little push was all he needed.
"You know, this room reminds me of my father's house. He had a room in his basement just like this one. Used it to get to the truth on many occasions, some of which I was there for; did you know that?" I allowed him no time to answer, "And you know what? He never failed." I spoke conversationally, watching Carlisle closely. I could see by the look in his eyes that he knew what I was talking about, even though he had never been to that house.
"Edward," his voice was still calm, "I know you don't want to do this. You're a fair man. I need you to trust that I would never betray Esme, and that I'm doing what I can to save someone who has become very important to me, and the only way I can do that is to make an agreement with Aro.
"Then why ..." I interrupted harshly, "... did you not come to me in the first place? Why Aro, of all people? You know he killed my father, and even if there was little love left between us, he was the only parent I had. Aro and I have hated each other ever since." My voice calmed, "Surely, there was another way?"
There was silence, and I was beginning to wonder if he would break, or I would have to kill him. I just could not get my head around why he wouldn't come to me, first.
The outer door clanged open putting paid to any answer Carlisle might have had for me and Alec came through it, dragging a screaming and kicking girl with long mahogany hair. She was fighting so hard that I couldn't see her face as she punched, kicked and bit at any part of him she could reach. I almost chuckled, thinking she was one little hellcat.
Carlisle gasped in horror as Alec shoved her into a chair across the room from him, tying her hands to it. Glancing at Carlisle again, I thought he looked ready to break now. Who was this girl to him? If he was not cheating on my sister, then what the fuck was going on?
Before I could speak to him, the room rang with the sound of the girl speaking up for the first time.
"You bastard!" Her scream of pure rage poured out of her, and took my attention away from him.
My god, she was beautiful; even red faced and covered in snot, mascara and tears. Not an ounce of fear showed on her face. Seeing Carlisle, her reaction seemed to confirm that there was something between them, and I gritted my teeth, my anger rising again. It seemed there would be more than one death tonight, though I never like killing women. Sometimes it had to be done, and in this case, it looked like both this Bella and Carlisle might be going that way before the night was gone.
I stalked toward her, growling under my breath. Tucking my gun under her chin, I got up real close, and damn it if I didn't suddenly want to kiss her. Shaking that thought from my head; instead, I spoke quietly, "If you don't shut up screaming, I will put a bullet in him, capisce?"
She was silent, looking me dead in the eye. "Bastard," she growled, and then the little chit spat at me.
Gobsmacked, my eyes widened and I glared at her disrespect, lifting my hand to swipe the gun across her face. I'm not sure if I would have done it, but it had the desired effect.
"No, Edward, stop! Please. I'll tell you everything." Carlisle's shout rang out from behind me and I grinned at my success before I turned away from the girl and back to face him. I knew something would make him talk.
"Bella," he urged, "Please be quiet, it'll be fine."
I scowled at him for speaking out of turn, "Talk," was all I said.
"Hang on, Edward, I'll tell you everything, but before I do, you have to agree to help my sister. Please!"
"Who's she to you?" I interrupted, pointing at Bella. "I don't have to agree to anything, get on with it!" I gestured with the gun to hurry him up; I was getting impatient.
He took a deep breath, "If I don't turn up at this meeting, Aro will kill her mother." At my scowl he continued hurriedly. "Renée is my illegitimate sister, and our father is Marcus, Aro's brother. Now, Marcus doesn't particularly care for Renée, or me, and is more than happy to use her as a bargaining tool to get what they want."
"What does this have to do with her?" I gestured towards the girl, "And what do they want?"
"An in; they want the contacts for our gun-running operation, and space to expand their human trafficking and that means the Wharf. He wants Bella there as insurance for Renée's good behavior."
"And what do you get in exchange for BETRAYING me and my sister?" I roared at him, out of patience.
Carlisle was silent for a minute and my temper was now getting short; urging me to do something, anything - nothing he had said so far meant that I wouldn't kill him and her. My temper leaked out and I raised the gun, aiming it and firing above his head. I really, really wanted to shoot him but the thought of Esme's resulting grief stayed my hand; she'd never understand.
Bella let out a short scream, and I whirled on her, "What did I tell you? Do I have to gag you to get you to shut up?"
She closed her mouth sharply and shook her head, though her eyes betrayed the rage she was barely managing to hold inside.
"Please, Edward, let me finish," Carlisle was back to begging; pissing me off. "Renée, my sister, married a small town Washington sheriff, Charlie Swan and ... and Bella is their daughter ..."
"She's a cop's daughter? What the fuck? Do you have any more fucking surprises for me?"
His voice was now pleading with me to listen.
"Yes, I know that, but I promise he knows nothing. Bella will confirm that. He still lives in Forks, and she's at University here in Chicago. Renée had no idea who her father was but Marcus has always known about her," he swallowed before he continued, "And me."
He cringed a little, knowing that bit of information would throw someone else under the bus for not digging itup; something I would be checking into when this shitstorm was over.
"Marcus told Bella to contact me, knowing that I wouldn't be able to sit back and let something happen to my family, illegitimate or not. He wants all our contacts and operations."
He hurried on at the glare from me, "I did a background check, of course, to make sure she was who she said she was, and that's what brought up Charlie and Renée. Bella knew absolutely nothing, having been told that her maternal grandparents were dead. Right now, Aro has Renée, and we only have a few more days to free her because Chief Swan thinks she's away at a yoga retreat for a week."
Carlisle was almost begging now, "Aro will kill her if I don't hand over those contacts and enough information for them to take the wharf by force. Please... let us meet him. I promise I had a plan to kill him before he could do anything. I can't let him kill my sister; and Bella and her father would never be safe."
"The photos you have are of Bella and me meeting to firm up those plans. I have a few loyal friends who are prepared to protect her."
"How do you explain the talks we've intercepted between you and Sam, Aro's underboss? Why would you talk to him?"
"We were talking about Renée; he was in love with her when he was younger, and now wants to do everything he can to help free her. But he won't risk doing anything openly. Aro would kill him and his whole family and he won't risk that, even for Renée."
I stood for a moment taking all of this in, "I ask you again, Carlisle, why did you not talk to me?"
He sighed, "Because, you wouldn't have listened. You would have seen the threat to Esme's happiness and allowed Renée to be eliminated, no matter the threat to Bella, or anyone else. Damn it, Edward, I can see it in your eyes; you're thinking about doing it right now, aren't you?"
I had to admit to myself that he was right; I would protect my family first. And I know that I wouldn't have consented to meeting with Aro at all. He was my sore point and anything to do with him would cause my anger to spill over; I could be irrational where he was concerned.
I could see the moment Carlisle saw my acceptance of the situation, and I knew that I would agree to help him. That, however, did not excuse his excluding me from something this important. He would be punished for that, sometime in the future, when I'd had time to think of something appropriate.
"We can't give Aro any way of getting the wharf so here's what we're going to do."
The plan was for Carlisle to meet with Aro as arranged, and he could take along the flash drive with a list of contacts. Bella would wait in the car and instead of Carlisle's friends, who would never have been able to stand against the Volturi guards. My men would be in place, and we would not be merciful. Any guards present would not live to see another day. That would leave Aro and Marcus in the building with Renée, and probably a couple of other guards. Emmett would go in through the roof and Jasper and I would enter by the back, taking out any guards that were in the way.
The only stipulation I had was that it would be my gun, my shot and my bullet that would kill Aro.
Bella was told that under no circumstances was she to move from the car unless I or one of my men came to fetch her. She was to lock the doors and wait. We were the experts here and I promised I would do my utmost to get Renée out of there in one piece; but killing Aro and Marcus was the most important part. I wanted to stop this takeover in its tracks, and put the Volturi so far back that they would take years to recover.
I had lunch brought in while we waited for the cover of darkness. Carlisle managed a call to Esme to let her know that he was out on business with me, and he would see her in the morning at their apartment downtown.
I tried to avoid Bella and she glared at me the whole time, but I found myself intrigued by her nonetheless. As twilight descended and the meeting drew closer, her manner turned a little fearful, though I could tell it was not for herself. An unknown feeling drifted through me and I found myself standing beside her, for the umpteenth time that day, wanting to assure her of my intentions.
"It will be fine, Bella; your mother will be fine. But can I ask you to speak with her after this is all over, and urge her not to say anything to your dad? It wouldn't be fair to give him this knowledge; him being a cop would make it his duty to follow up and that would be disastrous for everyone. Can you do that? Believe me; I'm not threatening you or your family at all."
Her face softened and the smile she gave me almost stopped my heart. I found myself wanting to know more about her, striking up conversations with her as often as I could.
Never had I spent as much time as this with anyone who was not family and we spent hours talking about anything and everything. Carlisle smirked from the other side of the room where we had settled in to wait. I said nothing and glared at him, telling him wordlessly to shut the fuck up.
Eleven o'clock came and we finalized the plan, going over it one more time. Leaving the house via the garage, Jasper, Emmett and Jake were with me along with Alec, Demetri and Felix piling into the SUV, Carlisle and Bella in the Mercedes. They had to turn up alone, seemingly unfollowed, so we separated immediately, heading in a different direction with the same destination in mind.
The last words I spoke to her were, "Be safe, Bella."
She spoke the same words to me and I watched the love of my life drive away.
I shook my head at those thoughts, not quite believing their truth; all the while telling myself that there would be time enough to think more on that later.
The night was dark with very little moonlight as we drew up behind the warehouse where the meet was taking place. All the lights that would normally have lit the outside of the building were out, which probably meant that there were guards there; hidden away and on the lookout. I indicated that Alec and Felix should head to the left and take out anyone they found, and sent Demitri and Jake in the other direction to do the same. I knew they would kill without making a sound, so I felt pretty safe heading in through the back door.
Emmett took the emergency staircase upwards and carefully peeked over the top of the parapet. Giving him a second as he hoisted himself over onto the roof, Jasper and I crept forward toward the door. A thud beside me told us that Emmett had dispatched the guard he found. I judged that ten minutes was enough time for most of the guards to be gone, and knowing Aro, he was arrogant enough to think he was safe.
The back door wasn't locked; another example of Aro's arrogance. Before slipping inside, Jasper and I split up, going in opposite directions, him heading around to the front of the building, allowing me to head in through the door, moving quietly towards the voices I could hear echoing in the main part of the building. The warehouse contained long rows of shelving, all empty at the moment, and although that gave us some cover, it also deflected the sound of those voices, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly where they were.
"Where's the girl, Carlisle? I thought you were told to bring her along." Aro spoke in an almost friendly tone.
"Bella is somewhere safe. I have the information you want so send Renée over here."
Aro's face darkened in fury, "You'll pay for that, Cullen; later. Pass the drive, I want to make sure it's what we need, no double crossing."
"Come on, Aro, what do you take me for, an idiot? There's no way I can do that. Let her go."
"Tell you what, the bitch can stand over there with Daddy," he sneered, "and you can slide the drive over to me."
There was silence for a few seconds while they all thought it over, and in that space of time I heard the scrape of something on the metal stairs leading down from the roof. I was surprised that Emmett would be so clumsy, but before I could do anything, there was a clatter and a muttered oath, in a female voice.
I groaned internally, knowing that it was Bella. I would have my hands full later; she was never afraid when she should be. There was no time for me to do anything as Marcus gave a triumphant shout, and there was the sound of cussing and swearing. I stayed where I was, trying to work out where they were positioned, and managed to stretch my neck to see Carlisle's horrified face as Bella was dragged into view.
"Well, well, well. What do we have here, or should I say who?" Aro drawled, waving his gun, telling Marcus to bring Bella over to stand beside him. "Seems like I have all the cards now, Carlisle; hand over the drive."
"Aro," Carlisle calmly said; he was playing for time knowing that my men and I would be close by. "Don't do anything hasty, let the girls come to me, please, and I'll gladly give you all the information you want, I have it right here."
"No way, Carlisle, I think I'm going to keep this pretty little one for myself."
"Get the fuck off me, you freak!" Bella's voice rang out.
"Now, now, enough of that, little girl; be quiet or I'll be forced to shoot your mother."
Silence followed that threat, but with Aro's attention elsewhere, Carlisle was able to move a little, bringing him into my view. Emmett stepped into sight on the other side of the warehouse and was behind Marcus, who had hold of a woman I assumed was Renée. Emmett was trying to stay out of Aro's direct line of sight but he and I could now see one another. We had agreed that there would be no use of the intercom link we carried unless it was absolutely essential; the size of the warehouse meant that any sound would be magnified, so he raised his hand indicating that I should stay low, and work my way round to the left.
Once I had done that I had a clear view of Aro but Bella was between us, and I was afraid that if I took a shot from here, she would get caught in the crossfire. We had to get rid of Marcus first. I was afraid to move too soon in case Aro got trigger happy.
"What have we got here?" an amused voice came from behind me. "Drop the gun, Masen."
I closed my eyes and stilled. I had been so busy checking to see that Bella was safe that I had stupidly assumed that my men outside had managed to get all the guards; an assumption that might cost me everything.
I slowly placed the gun on the floor and stood, watching for any opportunity to turn the tables.
"And your other one." He poked me in the gut and I pulled out the gun tucked into my belt in the middle of my back.
"Turn around and get over there," his head indicated where Aro was standing. I moved forward and was rewarded with a shove in the back, no doubt with my gun that he now held.
As I drew closer to Aro, his face was wreathed in an evil smile, "Edward, how nice to see you. What a lovely surprise." He looked closely at me, trying to drag the thoughts from my head and then his face lit up, "Ah, you're not here for Carlisle, are you? You're here for the lovely Bella. Hmmm ... interesting," he mused.
"Leave her out of this and let her go, she's not involved," I grated out.
"Ah, but she is in this up to her neck. Now what do I want? Let me think." He stood there silently, smirking at my position.
"I tell you what," he sniggered, "I'll let you choose. I'll allow Carlisle to go free ... I'm sure the lovely Esme will be very grateful. Or ... you can take Renée; I don't have any use for her now that I have this pretty one." His hands slid up Bella's arms and he lifted her hair, inhaling along the side of her neck. His eyes gleamed at the rage he could see in my eyes, knowing it was pushing my buttons. "Either way," his voice hardened, "You won't be leaving here, and I will have the wharf."
My mind raced as I discarded plan after plan. Bella was too close to him and everything I thought of endangered her. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Carlisle move forward a few steps, only to be brought to a halt by Marcus' shout to stay where he was. Dragging Renée with him, he moved closer to Carlisle, aiming the gun at his head.
For the moment, I played along with whatever plan Aro was cooking up in his head. There was nothing else I could do; I need to get closer to him and to do that I had to wait for the diversion that Emmett should be working on now. I wondered where Jasper was, but for now he would have to take care of himself.
Now that Marcus had moved forward, the space between him and Emmett was clear. A slight nod from me and everything seemed to happen at once. Emmett launched himself forward and raised his gun, taking a shot at Marcus. Blood and brain matter sprayed outwards covering Carlisle and Renée.
The shot hit him in the back of the head, his face disappeared in a spray of blood and brain matter. Carlisle grabbed at Renée, pushing her behind him for safety, and Emmett moved his gun to cover Aro. While his attention was distracted by the death of his right hand man, I decided this was the time to take advantage of the situation. The goon behind me fell as Emmett fired another shot, and I took the opportunity to step forward and grab Bella. Pulling her away from Aro, she was partially shielded by my body as Aro, screaming in rage, turned his gun in my direction.
I could feel her hands on me, telling me not to antagonize him. Her touch lit a fire in me and a look at her face showed she was feeling the same. I couldn't let Aro hurt her.
With no more thought I stepped between Aro and Bella just as he fired the gun. I couldn't make heads or tails of the images in front of me. Blood sprayed from Aro and covered the floor in front of me and I felt the worst pain ever, radiating through every bone in my body and beyond.
For a while everything was black, and I was floating in an unfeeling vacuum.
Slowly, I came back to myself and gingerly opened my eyes, afraid to move in case the horrific pain I remembered revisited me. I sighed with relief when I felt nothing, but became more worried and slightly afraid, when I realized that I could feel just that ... nothing!
I searched my memory for the reason I would feel, or not feel, this way and felt the panic rise when I couldn't remember anything. Thinking harder brought nothing to mind, and I began to cast my mind back over the past hoping to recognize something.
Looking around, on my left I could see a faint light, as if a fire had been set in a distant room. Turning my head, though I have no idea how since I could feel nothing, I could see a bright, clear light to my right as if an open window were just around the corner. Neither gave me any idea where I could be.
After what seemed hours, I let myself drift. I wasn't in pain, nor was I afraid anymore.
Immeasurable time passed, and I drifted in a state of non-being, until a small voice began to insistently impinge on my consciousness.
"Edward," the voice was soft and sweet, "Edward." The voice continued until I surfaced enough to wonder if that was my name.
"Yes, it is. Your name is Edward, do you remember now?"
Clearing my throat I answered in a whisper, "I think so. Who are you? Where are you? Where am I?"
"All in good time, Edward," the voice continued soothingly, "Just rest and don't stress yourself. The memories will return and I'll be here to help you."
Somehow, I trusted the voice, though I had no idea why or who she was. So I allowed myself to continue to drift without forcing memories. Now that I at least knew my first name, I drifted, remembering images of a childhood. Without a doubt it was my childhood, and as it passed in front of my eyes, I recognized my parents, recalling their names. Edward, my father, and Elizabeth, my mother; I remembered that I loved them fiercely. I watched as I played with other children at school, learned to play the piano; my mother seated beside me. I watched as my father and I went to ball games, and visited the zoo and museums.
Then a feeling of sadness filled me as I watched the image of my mother fade; showing each stage of her illness throughout my early teenage years. The grief of losing her filled me once again, and my eyes filled with tears, as her image disappeared from my life.
My father was still there, but he became hard and unloving; teaching me that showing my grief was unacceptable. I found my heart hardening with every image that passed in front of me.
"It's time, Edward," the soft, musical voice was back.
"Who are you?" I shouted; my voice rough and hard. "Show yourself and tell me what the fuck is going on!"
The voice didn't change and neither did the person it belonged to appear as I demanded. Instead, a new vision played like a movie reel across my eyes.
I was eighteen and in my final year at school; an exclusive one. Over the summer break, my father had been teaching me about the 'Family Business', and up until that year I hadn't known about the real stuff. He had been encouraging my studies in Economics, which I thought meant he would want me to work on the investments the Company made, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I'm not sure it was planned, but one day after lunch, the sounds of cursing and shouting came from the front door. Paul Lahote was a made-man; one of my father's trusted soldiers, and he was being dragged into the house by two others. He was fighting against their hold, yelling and screaming his innocence. I knew that there was no way my father would have permitted this without a very good reason and I stood in the doorway, watching and waiting to see what it was.
I had forgotten the look on my father's face on that day; cold and hard without a trace of humanity or emotion.
"Well, what do you have to say, traitor?" He rasped out harshly.
Paul scowled, although I could see a trace of fear in his eyes. "I'm no fucking traitor, I've been set up. You know me, Ed."
My father nodded in the direction of the men holding Paul in place and they stepped back, allowing him to stand up straight. Paul's manner eased and he smiled, but I was watching my father. His face had not changed at all, and I wondered what Paul had done.
"Paul, you are familiar with the Omertà." It was not a question.
My father turned to me, "You see, Edward, Omertà is the code of silence for Families such as ours; it forbids betrayal, and lays out the penalties for those who commit it. Paul here is fully aware of those penalties for turning on the Family in any way, but he has either forgotten ... or thinks I am stupid."
He continued conversationally, for my benefit, "The penalty for betrayal of the family is death, no excuses allowed." Paul's face fell as my father continued, "I have all the evidence I need, all delivered to me direct from the offices of the FBI. What did they promise you, Paul? Was it enough for you to turn informant?"
He stopped for a moment, scrutinizing Paul, who offered no answers. His face gave away nothing more and the fear that had shown for a few seconds, was nowhere to be found. Giving him no further chances to explain, my father nodded at the two men who had stepped back while he was speaking. They moved forward again, grabbing Paul's arms and yanking him forward, and led him to the stairs leading down to the cellar.
"Edward," my father quietly said, "It's time you were a little more involved in the family business." And with a nod of his head he indicated that I should follow them downstairs.
I had never been down those stairs, and to my knowledge, neither had my mother. My heart was beating fast, but I didn't want to disappoint my father; I wanted him to be proud of me, so I hid my fear and followed him into a new future.
The ceiling to the room was low, the floor dipping towards a drain in the centre. I didn't let my mind wander as to why that would be; if I didn't acknowledge it, it wasn't so. It was small, only around twenty-five square feet. There was one uncovered bulb screwed into a holder flush against the ceiling, giving only a dim light, hiding the corners in darkness.
The men who had dragged Paul into the house shoved him towards the center of the room and tied his hands to the metal bar which crossed the ceiling, embedded in the concrete walls and his feet to the one embedded in the concrete floor, giving him no room to move. They stepped back behind my father waiting for his instructions, but instead, he turned to me.
"Edward ... my boy," his ominous whisper carried through the room, "The punishment should fit the crime, don't you think?" He didn't give me a chance to say anything, not that my voice would have worked if he had. "Paul here is a traitor through and through and to make it worse, he was trusted as a made man."
With that he lashed out at Paul with the butt of his handgun, splitting the skin across his cheek. Paul said nothing, the hate in his eyes needing no words. No anger showed on my father's face as he lashed out again, hitting the other side of Paul's face. Blood poured down his face, looking like macabre tears.
The words grating from my father's mouth were a contrast to the calmness of his face, "Don't lie to me, scum, I have the recorded evidence right here." He nodded to goon number one, who pulled a small device from his pocket, sliding the switch to fill the room with Paul's voice.
"The shipment is due in at four o'clock on Wednesday morning."
"Queen's Wharf, number eighteen."
"How many men will there be?"
"Seven; two at the door, two on the roof, two inside with the shipment, and the driver."
Even I recognized the voice of Marcus Volturi, Salvatore, consigliere and brother to Aro Volturi. I suppose the tape could have been doctored but the look on my father's face said otherwise.
"You tellin' me that's not you?"
Paul spat at my father's feet, "Think what you want," was all he said. I had to admire his bravery even though he had betrayed the family.
Seemingly unaffected by Paul's action, my father paced up and down in front of him, "You understand we have to send a message, dontcha? We can't let it go; or else others will think we're soft; that we can't uphold our honor."
"Edward," his bark startled me, though I was careful to hide it, "What do we do with squealers?"
"Make sure they can't talk; make an example of them." It was a statement and out of my mouth before I had time to think.
"Good ... good," he muttered. "It's time for you to give a lesson."
Handing me a straight razor and his gun, he nodded his head in Paul's direction. At that moment, I knew there was no way out and I had to step up to the plate and prove my worth. My father wouldn't hesitate to make an example of me if I refused. I took a deep breath and switched off from what I was about to do, despite the fact I was sick to my stomach.
"Hold him," I directed goon one, "Open his mouth," that was to goon two. Each did as they were told and I stepped forward, forcing my fingers into Paul's mouth. The glare from his eyes didn't change as I yanked his tongue out between his teeth as far as I could and lifted the knife. With one slash the flesh parted company and I was left with his tongue in my hand. Holding my breath for a second so I didn't disgrace myself, I threw it to the ground and stepped back. Paul's scream of agony echoed throughout the space, dying away to a whimper.
"That's right, son, finish it." My father's voice came from behind, breathless with anticipation.
There was no need for me to switch the gun to my right hand; I was close enough that any shot wouldn't miss, though I was ambidextrous and just as good a shot with my left hand. Raising it slightly, I fired a shot into each knee. I know my father would have preferred me to take it slow and make him suffer more, but my stomach wouldn't allow that.
More screams and garbled words came from Paul. Tears were streaming down his face, mixing with the blood from the cuts on each of his cheekbones, and still his face read only anger. Wanting to finish this quickly, I ignored my father completely and shot him, point blank through the forehead and watched the light leave his eyes.
Dropping the gun and the knife to the floor, I turned and left the room, knowing that what food in my stomach would make a reappearance shortly. As I shot up the stairs, my father's voice floated up after me. "Send in the cleaners, Brady, and make sure this room is completely clean. You know what to do with him. The FBI will not be a problem."
No one ever questioned where Paul had gone and the evidence planted by the Family, pointed to our rivals. And with that, I was initiated. My father never said anything and he was right, rivals got the message; as did anyone else who thought they might be able to get one over on us.
The images faded and for a while I drifted once again. An unknown amount of time later, the same sweet voice brought me back to the present and the images began to play again.
I watched as my father handed over more of the business to me, and though I tried to stick with the milder stuff, running the clubs and the prostitutes, he insisted that I take on the protection. When I was twenty-four, Aro Volturi managed to get through my father's bodyguards and defenses and he was shot leaving the penthouse where I knew he housed his mistress.
As the reel continued to play, the voice faded until I was alone again.
Pain crept up through me, spreading from the center of my body and out to the extremities, burning through my veins and bursting through my head. I became aware of a beeping noise and the hiss of machines. Forcing my eyes open, the brightness seared my eyes and I felt as if I was drowning, unable to take a breath.
Cool hands held mine stopping me from moving them to my face and a soft voice told me to stay still. The light dimmed and I was able to open my eyes, faced with the red-rimmed eyes of Esme. I tried to speak but she shushed me.
"Don't try right now, Edward. You're in the hospital and you've been in a coma for ten days and I was so afraid for you. Carlisle has gone to fetch the doctor, to take out the breathing tube." Tears filled her eyes but she dashed them away, not allowing them to fall. The worried look on her face, however, did not disappear.
I looked around the room, seeing Jasper and Emmett, seated on chairs close to the door. There was no sign of Bella or Renée anywhere, and I was becoming increasingly worried.
A few minutes later, Carlisle burst into the room followed by the doctor.
"Good morning, Mr Masen, it's nice to see you awake," already I hated the sound of his voice; far too cheerful. I glared at him and he shut up, checking over the readings on the machines beside my bed. He called nurse into the room and between them, the breathing tube was removed, leaving my throat raw. He spent the next thirty minutes explaining that the first bullet had passed through me relatively cleanly, although they did have to remove one of my kidney's. He laughingly said that I would not have any problems as I had another. Aro's gun had also fired as he fell and that bullet was the one that caused my coma, as it grazed my temple.
He left shortly after, telling me that I would make a full recovery and to rest. The room fell silent as I contemplated the burning question to which I needed an answer.
My first word was whispered, "Bella? Renee"
Esme's eyes filled with tears, and suddenly I didn't want to hear the answer. I closed my eyes and turned to face the wall, refusing to speak to anyone; falling asleep in a few minutes.
I awoke to find Esme asleep on one of the hospital chairs, leaning over onto the one next to her where Carlisle sat watching me.
Bella was gone; I didn't have to ask and didn't want to hear the words spoken out loud. We had spent only a few short hours together but in that time, I had fallen in love with her and I hoped she felt the same for me, though now I would never know; would never have the chance to find out.
Carlisle gently moved out from under Esme and moved towards me. His hand covered mine as he softly spoke, "I'm sorry, Edward. It turns out that the Feds have had us under surveillance for weeks. They had the building surrounded and when they heard the shots, they stormed the warehouse."
"How did they know about the meeting?"
Continuing, Carlisle sounded smug, "It seems that the Volturi have been less than careful in their dealings over the last few months. Their recent activities have attracted a lot of attention from the Feds, who have had them followed. Now, without a head to turn to, it looks as if the only person capable of taking the reins and stepping into that place, is Sam."
His expression took on a kind of glee, "Evidently, there is no love lost within the Volturi for either Aro or Marcus, so it's likely they will accept him as the new Boss."
"And the flash drive?"
He looked at me sheepishly, "Pictures of our honeymoon. I was hoping it would never get far enough for Aro to take a look at the details."
Swallowing hard, I asked the question everyone had been dancing around. "And Bella, what happened?" I had to know.
Carlisle took a deep breath and explained further, "Because you were so close to Aro, the bullet he fired passed right through you. Bella was right behind you and that same bullet, hit her spleen and nicked the aorta; that's the vein into the heart." He stopped and swallowed hard before continuing, "Ambulances were called at the same time as the Feds broke through the warehouse doors, and you and Bella were whipped off to the hospital."
All the energy slid from his body and he slumped into the closest chair, "They rushed her into surgery but … she didn't make it; she'd lost too much blood and when her heart stopped, nothing they tried worked. She's gone, I'm so sorry , Edward. I saw how much she was starting to mean to you. Renée stayed for a while but eventually her and Charlie took her back to Forks."
My eyes filled with the first tears I had shed since my mother died, and although I refused to let them fall, I felt as if a part of my life had come to an end before it had even had a chance to start.
Unable to speak, and too tired to think or talk any further, once again I took refuge in sleep, not wanting to think about Bella, for now.
When I next woke, Esme was beside me, looking much better than the previous time. She had obviously been home and managed to get some sleep herself.
"You look much better, Edward. You'll be home in no time." She didn't mention Bella and neither did I, neither of us willing to broach the subject.
Nevertheless, my thoughts were filled with the short time we had been together and all we had spoken about and learned of each other. I had no idea where my life was going to go from here; I couldn't fathom what sort of happiness I would be able to find without her, but I would try.
I turned to my sister, "Esme, please, could you call Carlisle and ask him to come in, there is much we need to talk about."
She agreed and left me to the care of the nurse.
Later that day, she and Carlisle returned and were followed into the room by Emmett and Jasper, who seemed to have suffered no after effect from the blow to the head he received outside the warehouse. When everyone was seated, I broached the subject of the future of the business and the family.
"Carlisle, I want you to take over and head up the family." I held up my hand as he opened his mouth to protest as I knew he would. "No, Carlisle, I'm done with it. I have tried for years, ever since my father died, to step into his shoes and I have realized that I am not like him; I can't be the ruthless man he was, nor do I want to be. In fact, I don't want to be involved at all."
I looked directly at him and Esme, "I truly believe that you are the man who can change the direction of the family. I have been aware of how little you like the side of the business dealing with drugs and drug-running and you are just the person to take us into the twenty-first century as a legitimate company."
Giving him time to gather his thoughts, I looked over towards the window.
"Edward," Esme whispered, "Are you okay?"
"What?" I looked away from the window, and touched her hand, smiling "I'll be fine, Esme. It'll take some time, but please don't worry about me."
Feeling tired, I lay back drifting as Carlisle talked about the plans he had been pulling together for years, his voice and demeanor becoming more excited as he went over the detail. I couldn't find one ounce of enthusiasm for any of it, and my gaze returned again and again to the window.
Over the next two days, I began to feel better physically, but nothing seemed to calm my heart. I could find little to interest me, although Carlisle was enthusiastic about the direction he was planning on moving the family.
"Carlisle," I interrupted him one day, "I like your plans, but the business is yours now, so it's time to call the lawyer in and make it official. The Volturi will take a long time to recover from the Aro's indictment and Marcus' death. You should contact Sam; he'll be receptive to all the changes and I think he will be interested in joint plans."
"And what of you, Edward, what are your plans?"
I could tell he was worried about me, but I couldn't raise a single thought for the future at the moment. "I don't know right now, Carlisle. I can't seem to find any enthusiasm for anything at the moment." I looked away from him. "Maybe I'll just go travelling; I don't know. I do know that I can't stay here in Chicago; I need a new direction."
I had not been a good man for many years, and strangely enough, I was okay with the new life I would try to build; without her. I figured that my penance was to live without her; I felt it was nothing more than I deserved.
I spent all my time drifting in and out of sleep, dreaming of her, as I slowly healed. Ten days after I had first woken to find her gone, I opened my eyes feeling pretty good. The night sky was without a moon, allowing the stars to be clearly seen. My room was empty, so I assumed that everyone had gone for the day and in the quiet of the night, I resolved there and then to stick a pin in a map and go wherever that led me. The first step was to get out of this hospital … today.
It took a little longer than I wanted to convince the doctor to sign me out and though I was tempted to discharge myself, I used the time to check out where I wanted to live, now that my decision to leave had been made. I checked out a few cities and after giving it some thought, I found I was drawn to Seattle.
The city was far enough away from Chicago that I would not be able to be involved in anything to do with the family and was large enough to offer me business opportunities. I had managed the family finances for many years, despite it's source and had enough invested, to provide me with an income while I check out what I wanted to do.
I felt I didn't want to work for someone else; I had been my own boss for too long to be able to settle for a simple job. Then there was a new feeling of wanting to give something back, so I made a decision to set up a trust to provide finance for low-income families to send their sons and daughters to Universities.
I could see where that could be extended to donate to air ambulances, which might have saved Bella. It would save lives, of that I was sure.
Esme wasn't happy about me moving so far away but I assured her that she and Carlisle would be welcome to visit as often as they wanted.
It didn't take long for me to sign away the business my father had spent years building; I wasn't sorry to be walking away from it. It was true that it had not killed my mother, but it had changed my father into someone I didn't know and it had almost killed me.
I spent those few months, making sure my recovery was complete and looking at apartments to rent. I decided that buying would come later when I knew my way around. I knew I would need an assistant and selected a young man straight out of University. Riley proved to be a godsend, finding office premises and refurbishing them to a good standard, which would mean I could hit the ground running.
On an overcast and cool September day, I boarded a plane bound for the city I had chosen, eager to start the new life I had chosen. Riley and I had worked on-line, setting up the Pacific Northwest Trust and had already provided a good number of students with the wherewithal to follow their dreams.
During this time, I had left myself little time to think of Bella and what might have been. The nights were different though; I dreamed of a life together, which somehow eased the sorrow deep inside me.
By the time Christmas and the New Year had been and gone, I had settled into my new life, if not happy, I was at least content. My investments had grown and proved to be good enough for both University education funding and the beginnings of the new Seattle Air Ambulance Service, which would be up and running by the summer. I was sure it would prove to be a great addition to the search and rescue service.
As the weather warmed, I spent more time outside and took to visiting a local cafe in Pike Place Market, from where I could sit and people watch. On a sunny Friday afternoon, a shadow fell over me and a sweet feminine voice came from beside me.
"Is this seat taken? Do you mind if I share your table?"
I looked up, squinting in the bright sunlight. "Of course, you're welcome."
As the woman sat opposite me, my mouth dropped open, "Renée? I thought …" I was unable to articulate further.
"That's what you were supposed to think. I hope you don't mind me contacting you. I saw your name on some paperwork about the new air ambulance service and I had to know. I spoke to Carlisle; I had to know before I could speak to you. He told me you have nothing to do with the business now. Have you left the family?" She took a drink from the bottle of water she had ordered, waiting for me to answer.
"I have, I just couldn't be that man anymore. It lost me the best thing that ever happened to me; I couldn't even stay in Chicago." I swallowed hard, wanting to ask.
Running my hand through my hair; a habit I had picked up over the last few months, I spoke quietly, "Some would say I deserve to be alone, given what I used to be, and I accept that, but I'll always miss her."
"I thought long and hard about this, Edward and I hope my trust is not misplaced. What if I was to say that Bella is alive?"
I stopped breathing for a few moments, taking the time for the feeling of relief to sweep through me. I closed my eyes and the blinked back the tears that threatened to fall.
"Where …" I had to stop and clear my throat, "Where is she? Would she want to see me?"
"It's a little more difficult than that, Edward. In surgery, it's true that her heart stopped but the surgeon managed to revive her. When she woke up, she remembered nothing of what happened that day, nor does she seem to have any memory of meeting Carlisle, Aro, Marcus and you. I made a snap decision to convince her to move back to our home town. She was only supposed to stay until she recovered from her injuries. An unfortunate side effect was the loss of her scholarship, and she decided that she didn't want to return to Chicago."
"She's okay isn't she?" I had to know. "What does she think happened to cause her injuries?"
"We lied to her, Charlie and I; we told her that there was a drive-by shooting and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She accepted that as the truth." Renée shrugged.
Looking directly at me she spoke earnestly, "The thing is, Edward, she isn't really happy. I think she knows there's something missing, and I think it's her connection to you. It's like she's waiting for you."
I let out the breath I had been holding, "What do you suggest? I want to see her, Renée, but I don't want to bring back bad memories."
She smiled and I could see Bella in her face, "She works in the local diner, every day from eight. I could see how much you loved her when we were in that warehouse; I trust you won't hurt her."
I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't hear Renée leave and only moved when the waitress let me know that they were closing in fifteen minutes. To my surprise twilight was falling and I knew I had been given another chance.
One o'clock the next day found me seated in the local diner in Forks. Just as Renée had said, there she was, greeting me with a smile.
"Hello, my name is Bella. I'll be your server for today. Let me get you something to drink while you take a look at our menu."
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