here’d been no sign of trouble, no drama, since the fiasco at the Inn and getting home that night, so I’d begun to relax some. Home became my safe haven. After a week of this gratifying peace, however, Joey called with devastating news. Evidently, Gianni had found Tommy unconscious after a heroin overdose. He started CPR immediately but lost him within minutes.
The news stunned me since, aside from the angel dust episode, I’d never seen Tommy high on drugs. If there had been any sign of him using, I’d missed it. It seemed unfair. It always seems unfair. He was twenty-one, for God’s sake, and had lost so much.
“Yeah, he had problems with it in the past,” Joey told me. “I didn’t know until he started again recently. I can’t believe it, man.”
After hanging up the phone, I sat on my bed with my face in my hands, wishing someone would say this was all one never-ending nightmare.
At the wake, I approached Gianni before anyone else. His eyes were downcast. When he looked up, he seemed to look through me, as if he didn’t recognize me.
I touched his arm lightly. “Gianni, I’m so sorry for your loss.”
There was no trace of the smitten Gianni as I pulled him into a hug. He looked battle-weary and bewildered.
“Good of you to come, pretty lady,” he said. “I appreciate it.”
“Of course I would come.”
“He died in my arms, you know.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, me, too. Thanks, doll.”
I expressed my condolences to the family members, which included the Lynx gang, and then I knelt before Tommy to say my silent prayer for his soul. Even in the suit they’d dressed him in, he looked too young. I pictured his eyes in all their sincerity, the golden eyes—my fierce little tiger. My heart bled for him, and I could never express to him how sorry I was for his pain.
As I turned away from the casket, I nearly walked into Liz, donning her smart suit and mid-heel pumps.
“I forget now,” she said. “Which one are you?”
I had no doubt she knew exactly who I was. “It’s Danielle. I know you and Tommy were very close. I’m sorry for your loss.” As emotional as I was feeling, I almost wanted to apologize to her for Gianni’s behavior as well.
“Thank you,” she said smugly. “He was a good-hearted person.”
“Yes, he was.”
She looked down now, as if studying my shoes. “Gianni and I broke up months ago—on New Year’s Eve.”She looked up at me again. “I found someone who thinks the world of me, Danielle, and I’d never settle for less. There are no hard feelings with Gianni. He wanted that for me—for me to be happy.”
I smiled. “That’s great. You deserve that.”
“Thanks,” she said. “Listen, their aunt just arrived. I need to go over and say hello. You take care now.”
An arm slipped around me then, someone who had come up from behind—Valentin.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said when I turned.
“Oh, no, you didn’t. Are you okay? I know poor Gianni found him …”
“Yes, I was there. I called 911 while he started CPR.”
“I’m so sorry.” Aware of the fluttery feeling inside of me , I nervously scraped a hand through my hair. “Can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” he replied.
“It was an accident, right?”
“Yes, it was.”
Was it better that Tommy didn’t intend to die? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I knew that much, whereas, with Angie, I continued to wonder.
“Billy was here,” Valentin said. “That made the reality hit.”
I sympathized. “That must have been hard.”
“Not harder than anything else. I’d like to make amends to him—not now but eventually.”
“But you were leaving the bar, after you defended Katharine, and he …”
“I lost control, Danielle. I’m not proud of it. Anyway, I have to make the rounds here.”
It was odd how every conversation I had that day seemed to resolve something for me, even the one I had with Joey as he walked me to my car.
“Everything seems to be falling apart,” I said. “What happens with the Lynx gang now?”
Joey shrugged. “I don’t know. I doubt there will be a Lynx gang after this. Valentin’s busy. Gianni’s becoming a cop, and now that Nico and I aren’t friends—doesn’t look very promising. But no one else is mad at me besides Nico.”
“You were pretty mad at him, too,” I recalled. “It sounded like he was accusing you of something.”
“Something that never happened.”
“Does he think it did?”
“Nah, he’s just being a dickhead. I was always close with Shannon. It never bothered him before.”
“Not until he found out she was keeping that secret about Valentin’s kid. Nico was defending Valentin.”
“And himself. He doesn’t trust easy. I think it scared him that he was falling for Shannon, caring more than he wanted to. Then give him a reason to think he’s gonna end up getting played, and he wants out.”
“Okay, so how is that different from what you did to Farran? You didn’t trust Farran, but you used her and then humiliated her. At least Nico trusted Shannon for the time he stayed with her.”
“Farran teases.” he said. “Did you know she cornered Valentin not long ago and begged him to take advantage of her? Yeah, I’m not supposed to know about that, but Nico told me. She acts like she’s not afraid, but she can’t make up her mind from one minute to the next. I don’t blame her for that, but, by the end of it, she was acting like a child, and I was all out of restraint. I didn’t want to push her, so I kicked her out. I wish I could say I waited for her to powder her nose and escorted her back to her friends, because, really, I wish I could have done that. I wish I was a more patient person, but I’m not. She wasn’t far from the Cove. I knew she’d be all right, but I’m your brother, and you thought the worst of me in this situation. You felt the need to come to her rescue against me. How ‘bout you take your friend and find someplace else to hang out where you’re not in over your little heads?”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” I shot back.“I don’t have any more friends, and I won’t be hanging out wherever you do.”
“You’re not friends with Farran?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Good,” he said.“Because I can’t stand her.”
Frustrated, I sighed heavily. “I still think treating her like that just because she changed her mind is wrong, and I hope you realize that.”
“I walked away!” he shouted. “Maybe I didn’t do it like a gentleman would, but I walked away!”
“Okay, but if you knew she wasn’t my friend, and she was trashing me, why were you fooling around with her in the first place?”
“I didn’t know she was trashing you.” His voice was still loud and intimidating.“I just knew I didn’t trust her as far as you were concerned. Tommy felt the same way, and the first time she trashed you to him, he ended things with her! Look, I’m sorry any of it happened. If I could change it, I would.”
“I believe you,” I said, fighting back tears. My instinct was to hug him, and he hugged back tight, as he always did.
When I arrived at the funeral, Joey was with Gianni, Valentin, and Nico. The four of them, along with two other pallbearers, carried Tommy’s flag-draped casket into the church. It began the swell of emotion in me. Gianni was in his marine uniform.
Farran already had a seat in the pews when I entered.
At different points, they played “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens, then “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel. The songbird and lyricist in me wept from my soul.
Gianni delivered the eulogy. Liz did a reading, and, lastly, during an operatic rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” the pallbearers carried the casket out of the church.
Farran and I spoke briefly outside. We hugged, crying. She had to go to work, but I followed the limos and motorcycles to the burial site.
A procession of bikers arrived ahead of the flag-draped casket. It was a clear day, like most days that March. I heard the ever-present crows, and watched the honor guards’ salute before they carried Tommy’s casket to his grave. An honor guard lifted the flag and held it over the casket. There was another salute before, “Attention. Ready. Aim.” I heard three shots and then “Taps,” followed by a salute from the bugler. The honor guard folded the flag, carrying out every detail of the ceremony with amazing precision and dedication. One of them held the folded flag over his heart, and then all of them touched it before another gave the salute. An officer knelt before Gianni and a woman I knew to be both Tommy and Gianni’s grandmother. He said something about presenting the flag on behalf of the Department of the Air Force and a grateful nation for Tommy’s faithful and dedicated service.
I’d always had an impassioned awe for pomp and circumstance, but this ceremony stirred me profoundly. I was a soldier’s daughter with such a deep, complicated love for my father. I had also become the unlikely friend of another soldier who’d endeared himself to me at a critical time in my life.
Wiping my tears now, I could feel Valentin’s eyes on me. At the end, he came and hugged me, and I squeezed him tighter than I’d ever had.
“At some point, I need to talk to you,” I said.
The timing seemed all wrong, but he had offered to lend an ear after Angie had died. I knew he was also in pain, and I wanted to do the same for him. Besides all of that, we had something to resolve. It might have been my last chance, since it was possible that I’d never see him again.
He glanced around. “Gianni’s having a very small gathering for friends and relatives. I need to be there.”
“Oh, of course,” I said, feeling foolish.
He looked at me. “What are you doing later?”
I wished I could silence my heart with its tumultuous pounding.
We agreed to meet at 6:00 p.m. and settled on a spot in East Haven near the beach. Still paranoid about my stalkers, I told Joey what I had planned and asked if I could stay at his house that night. I knew he’d be home, watching a game, and that he lived ten minutes away from the designated meeting place.
“Of course you can,” Joey said. “But if, for any reason, you decide you’re not coming, call me.”
I smiled. “What reason would that be?”
“Never mind,” he said. “I trust him to do the right thing, whatever that is.”
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.