Digger had never been this nervous talking to Anthony LoPresti. He’d known the man his entire life, after all. But this was different. Tony wanted to know what had really happened to Roberto di Stefano. This was exactly what Digger had hoped would not happen. That others would start asking questions.
“Wouldn’t you have heard if it was a hit?” He hated lying to Tony, but it wasn’t something he could tell anyone. Not ever. He’d have to take the real story to his grave.
“Yeah. That’s what has me bothered. I heard nothing. From no one.”
“Neither did I.” He was going to hell for sure. He’d just told the man half a dozen outright fucking lies in the space of less than ten minutes.
“I thought maybe Donny had said something to you.”
Tony was fishing, and it wasn’t difficult to see why. Donny Messina was Digger’s uncle, and the last person Roberto di Stefano had ordered a hit on. Tony didn’t have to stretch too far to imagine why Donny or Digger would want the man dead.
“He said nothing to me, Tony. If it was a hit, Donny didn’t order it.” That wasn’t a lie. Donny hadn’t wanted Digger to do this on his own, but at least he’d warned Donny ahead of time. He had owed his uncle that much consideration.
“Whadda mean if it was a hit? You really believe they fell in the bathtub?”
Digger shrugged. “Who the fuck knows? Maybe the fire alarm scared them?”
Tony looked at him like he’d fallen off the back of a truck and now had memory loss. “The fire alarm just happens to go off, even though there was no fire, and no apparent reason why it was tripped. Coincidentally, di Stefano and his girlfriend are naked in the tub. Di Stefano sends a text message to let his bodyguards know not to come up. Why did he do that?”
“He wanted to let them know the alarm was false. Tony, he was in the fucking bathtub with his girlfriend. He didn’t want his damn bodyguards pounding on the door.”
“But how the fuck did he know that? That it was false?”
There was no good answer, so Digger kept silent.
“And then they stand up, and both of them fall due to too much bath oil in the water. When they fall, they just happen to both kill themselves when they hit their heads on the marble at the edge of the tub!”
Digger tried not to flinch. When Tony laid it out there with that kind of detail, the entire setup sounded amateurish and rash. “Yeah. I see what you mean. But the bodyguards eventually went in, and their timeline of events checked out with the cops.”
“Yeah. It did. But again, it’s suspicious. Alarm goes off and the bodyguards get a text from di Stefano’s phone saying don’t come up, we’re fine, we think it’s fake. Why would he think it was fake?”
Taking a sip of his drink, Digger shrugged. “Didn’t it stop soon afterward?”
“Yeah, but not until after that text was sent.”
“I’ve waited to see if fire alarms are real before running out of a building, haven’t you?”
Tony grunted in response.
“You think someone else sent the text?” Asking the obvious question was the surest way to shift the focus from himself.
“We’ll never know, will we, since the phone was in the fucking water and there were no prints recovered from it.”
“That makes sense with the fall, though. He dropped it.”
“Maybe. Or maybe someone else dropped it in there. Sure took those two bodyguards a long fucking time to finally force open her door.”
“All the more reason why no one else could have been in there. The bodyguards were circling the block the whole time. They’d have seen anyone going in or coming out.”
Tony narrowed his eyes. “Not necessarily. Someone who knew what they were doing coulda’ got in there after tripping the alarm, sent the text, set up the fall, and then slipped out again while the car was circling.”
Digger looked Tony straight in the eyes. “I suppose so.” He had to fight not to grin at the way his voice came out perfectly calm and without any emotion. Tony nodded slightly and drained his drink.
Digger still wished he could have been a fly on the wall when those bodyguards finally busted in and found them dead. Digger was certain they had both shit their pants when they realized they’d fucked up big time.
“But, the cops and the ME ruled it accidental.” It was impossible to miss the sarcasm in Tony’s voice.
“You sound disappointed.”
Tony raised his brows, and then a wicked grin spread slowly across his face. When he laughed, Digger did, too. It was a relief to be able to let the stress out.
“Not disappointed.” Tony wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Just wish I coulda’ seen that myself, you know?”
A shiver ran down Digger’s back at the words that echoed his own thoughts. When Tony rose to freshen his drink, Digger stared at the crackling fire across the room and wondered if there might not have been a better way for him and Jimmy to set up the deaths to look accidental.
He and Jimmy Vaccaro, Donny’s cousin, had taken out di Stefano on their own. The girlfriend, Bess McFarland, had merely been collateral damage. They had wanted to make sure it didn’t look like a hit, for this very reason. They hadn’t wanted anyone to start asking questions, or to be able to trace it back to Donny. But if Tony was asking questions, others were, too.
“Hey, I’m not sayin’ di Stefano didn’t have it coming.” Tony opened a drawer in his desk and took out a manila envelope before taking his seat again. That meant he had a job for Digger. The excitement coursing through him at that realization helped deflect some of the discomfort this conversation had caused.
“I’m only sayin’ when you take out a boss, others usually hear about it first. Know what I mean?”
“Yeah.” Digger nodded, his gaze on the envelope. “I know exactly what you mean.”
“The whole thing is hinky, Daniel.” Tony never called him by anything other than his real name. “I don’t like it. It smacks of someone going rogue, and I want to know if that’s going on.”
It would be much simpler to tell him the truth. Put his mind at ease, and keep him from asking others the same things, or discussing it to the point that someone began digging a little deeper. But he and Jimmy, not to mention Donny, had made a pact. If Digger didn’t honor that, and either man found out, his credibility and his self-respect would be history.
Donny and Tony weren’t friends, but they did have an understanding. They passed on information relevant to the other’s organization, and they didn’t turn on one another. If Tony found out Digger had done this on his own, with Donny’s cousin, and that Donny knew about it, it would cause bad blood between Donny and Tony.
Digger didn’t to be the one responsible for that. He depended on both men for his livelihood, and Digger was loyal to those who took care of him. He owed both Tony and Donny more than he could ever pay back.
And in Tony’s case, Digger had an ulterior motive for staying on the Mob boss’s good side. With that in mind, he changed the subject. “I heard Emmi is taking a semester off and moving back here for a while.”
“Yeah. She’s moving the rest of her stuff in this week. Finally sublet that apartment she shared with Sam. The bastard left her with the lease.”
“All the more reason why it’s good he’s finally gone.
He nodded. “He was never right for her.”
But I am. I’m right for her. “She still planning on going back to school next semester?”
“Hell yeah. She’s only got one semester left. This is her dream. She’ll graduate from Columbia Law, and then who knows? She’s not interested in working for me. Already told me that. She’s got some job lined up over in Brookhaven somewhere, just for the time she’s on a break, working a few days a week. It’s only clerking for a small firm, but it’s practical experience.”
“Better than commuting into the city to work.” Tony’s house was in Southampton, on ten very private acres of land. In good weather and light traffic, it was a two-hour commute.
“Yeah. But she’d do that, too, if she had to.”
“Emmi has always been her own person.” It was one of the many reasons why Digger wanted her. He loved women who knew their own mind. The fact that she’d continued to be with Sam when everyone in her family hated him was proof of that.
Tony narrowed his eyes and studied Digger’s face intensely. Digger took another sip of his drink to help keep his expression neutral under the scrutiny.
“Maybe now that Sam is out of the picture, she’ll pay the kind of attention to you that you’ve always hoped she would?”
His pulse raced. “Maybe.” He had to put the glass down on the table because his palms grew damp. The one area of his life where Digger’s nerves of steel turned to mush was right here, where Emmi was involved. He was helpless in his resolve to possess her. It was the one thing in his life he’d wanted more than anything, and could not have.
Tony laughed. “You don’t do subtle well, Daniel. Never did. Why don’t you come over for dinner next week, once she’s all moved in?”
“You sure that won’t look kinda obvious?”
“Sure it’ll look obvious, but I don’t care. Emmi needs some stability in her life now. That asshole had her wrapped around his stupid fingers for twelve years. Christ. She wasn’t even a teenager yet and she was over the moon for that idiot. It’s time she had a real man in her life.”
“I would love nothing more than to be that man.”
“I know you would. So come over for dinner next Friday. Let me help you get what you want.”
And what if she still doesn’t want me? “Okay. I’ll be here.” How in the hell could he refuse that? Emmi was the only woman Digger had ever pictured spending his life with. Now that Sam was gone, there was hope. Finally.
“In the meantime…” Tony handed him the envelope. “I have a job for you.” Digger opened it and studied the pictures. “He’s small time, but he’s played me for a fool. Twice. Then he had the fucking balls to tell me he was a businessman and I shouldn’t take it personally.”
“Fuck.” Digger laughed. “No way.”
“The youth these days. No respect for anyone or anything.”
Digger put the pictures back in the envelope and tucked it next to his body in the chair. “It’ll be my pleasure to take out this punk for you, Tony.”
Tony raised his glass and Digger did the same. “You’re a good friend, Daniel. And you’re loyal to me.”
“I always will be.” And he would have said so even if the possibility of finally having Emmi for his own didn’t suddenly exist, because Digger took care of those who took care of him.