When Edmund had finished his coffee, he wandered around to the front of the mansion and stood alongside his boss’ immaculately maintained Fleetwood limousine, which had been brought out this evening specifically for the use of any guests who may require it.
To keep himself amused and to preserve the Caddy’s perfect shine, Edmund had taken a rag from the glove compartment and was busy polishing out any blemishes that may previously have escaped his notice. His fastidiousness and attention to detail had been one of the reasons Liuzzi had kept him on after marrying Mildred as no one had ever looked after his fleet of automobiles with as much care. Not even Nathaniel.
As Edmund worked he noticed people gathering on the driveway as they swarmed through the grand front doors of the mansion. He glanced up and saw limousines driven by the chauffeurs who had previously been with him at the back of the house now queueing in a line around the curve of the drive, their owners pouring out and into the waiting vehicles.
Edmund was confused as it was way too early for the party to be over. Yet hordes of guests were suddenly leaving and he could not understand why. He spotted Salvatore Falcone amongst the gaggle and heard him apologising for the ‘unforeseen circumstances’. He also overheard many of the guests wishing Mildred a ‘speedy recovery’.
Had his ex-wife been taken ill? Edmund wondered. It seemed clear to him that the party was now over and gradually, as he looked on, the driveway slowly cleared. He thought maybe his services might be needed, so he put on his cap and stood to attention by the driver’s door of the Caddy but everyone seemed to be well catered for. The sparkling limo would not be required after all.
It took maybe half an hour for all the guests to leave until the only people remaining were Falcone and Edmund. Salvatore looked over at him and shouted, “Go to bed, Peyton, you’re not needed tonight. Make it quick, man – or else Mr Liuzzi will have something to say about it.”
Edmund despised Salvatore. He did not trust him and did not like the way he looked at Ava. There was something rotten about the man which he could not quite put his finger on, but he always felt uneasy when Ava was alone in Falcone’s company.
Nevertheless, Edmund nodded his compliance and turned towards the Caddy. He would put the car away then get a well deserved early night. However, several minutes later, as Edmund shut and locked the garage door, he felt a niggling sensation that told him that something was not quite right. So rather than go up to his apartment above the garage, as ordered, he went back around to the kitchen instead.
He could tell something was wrong immediately. As he looked through the window he could see the kitchen was now deserted and the army of staff that had been there just a short while before had all gone. Furthermore, there were dirty pans, pots and plates everywhere. None of the work surfaces had been wiped down and the dishes had just been left piled up in the sink.
Making his way to the back door, which he could see had been left open in the staff’s apparent eagerness to leave, he heard the sound of voices.
“Hey, be quiet kid,” a voice, which Edmund recognised as Frankie DeLuca’s, said. “You gotta wait here, the boss says so. It ain’t no good bawling, there ain’t nothing I can do about it.”
As Edmund stepped into the light of the open doorway, he saw Ava sitting on a stool by the door and sobbing her heart out as Frankie stood helplessly over her, a handkerchief held pathetically in his hand as he tried to stop her from crying.
“I want my daddy!” She wailed. “I want my daddy, now!”
“Your daddy’s busy honey, busy with his guests in the library,” replied Frankie helplessly.
“Not him!” Ava scowled through gritted teeth and streaming eyes, “my real daddy.”
Edmund felt as though his heart was going to break as he burst through the doorway and into the kitchen. “It’s okay baby, I’m here. Daddy’s here. Everything’s going to be alright now.”
Ava turned and flew off the chair into his embrace, flinging her arms around his neck and gripping him tightly as if she never wanted to let him go.
“Hey, Peyton!” Frankie yelled, “This ain’t your place, you ain’t supposed to be here. Boss says the house has gotta be cleared.” Frankie DeLuca was not usually an unreasonable man, and was normally quite affable, but he had been given the directive by Salvatore, himself. The house had to be vacated as quickly as possible. And that meant everyone.
Summoning his courage from God knows where, Edmund glared at Frankie and said, “Go to hell! Can’t you see my daughter’s upset?”
Frankie was temporarily stunned. Edmund was usually so meek and mild. A real pushover.
“What is it, baby?” Edmund asked Ava softly. “What’s happened?”
The little girl was trembling, her whole body aquiver, something was obviously deeply wrong. “It’s Mommy,” she started, “she and three men, they were doing… they were doing bad things—”
“What kind of things, sweetie? Tell me.”
“Bad things. Very bad. They all got undressed and… and—”
“And what, Ava, what is it you saw?” Edmund pressed, although he could make a good guess.
“Daddy Carlo, he—”
“Okay, kid! That’s enough,” said Frankie cutting her off. “No more, alright. You didn’t see nothing, okay?”
“Be quiet, man!” Edmund barked. “Let the girl speak!”
Frankie DeLuca was a tough Italian New Yorker and a former member of the Carboni crime syndicate. Very few people spoke to him as Edmund just had but the chauffeur was the girl’s real father so Frankie was inclined to let it go and promptly shut up.
“Sorry, sweetie. What was it you were saying?” Edmund continued, “what happened with your Daddy Carlo?” Even now, when his daughter was in so much distress, he could barely bring himself to utter the words ‘Daddy Carlo’, but he had to find out what had happened as she was evidently traumatised by what she had seen.
Ava, sniffed and wiped her tears on Edmund’s jacket. “He killed one of the men,” she sobbed, “I think Daddy Carlo’s the devil!”
Edmund was stunned. He did not question what his daughter had said as she wept into his chest, her shoulders heaving with deep, breathless sobs. Mildred had always been flighty, always very promiscuous. Some of the guys back in Iowa used to rib him about it, saying what a good lay she was, but he ignored them and put it to the back of his mind. But he knew they were not lying. Knew they had all been with her.
Furthermore, he knew it was only a matter of time before her licentious nature got her into trouble in Los Angeles too.
As for Carlo Liuzzi being the devil, Edmund did not doubt it for a moment. There was a thick streak of evil running through that man and tonight he had obviously shown it. But Edmund did not care about him or Mildred, he only cared about protecting Ava and a passion burned within him now that he had never felt before.
Tonight he was strong, tonight he was invincible and God help anyone who got in his way.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here