On October 12, at 11:56 in the evening, Corrado Alphonse Moretti died.
There had been a strong lurching in his stomach and a sudden wooziness as blood gushed from the bullet wounds in his chest. Pain swept from his body like a rolling wave, numbness swallowing him whole. Everything blurred, sights and sounds distorted, as reality twisted and the world around him faded away.
And then there was nothing.
No bright lights. No gentle voices. No angelic presence. Only blackness. He heard nothing, he saw nothing, and he felt nothing. After everything Corrado had done in his life, he had expected hellfire and brimstone.
He was a bit disappointed, to say the least.
A few minutes later, at exactly midnight, Corrado was violently shocked back to life. His heart beat once again as oxygen saturated his body, but his newfound peace was instantly destroyed: The moment they brought him back into the world, ripping him from the darkness of afterlife, he was transported to a time he had long ago wished to forget.
It was a decade earlier but only a few feet away from the small, dingy hospital room he now lay in, soiled with blood, sweat, and bitter tears. The room from ten years before had been filled with the same feeling—heartbreak and misery, the harsh stench of imminent death thick in the air.
Corrado stood quietly in the doorway that warm October day, his eyes fixed inside the sterile room. Carmine DeMarco had always been slightly small for his age, but he seemed so minuscule in the large hospital bed. Tubes and wires ran from his frail body to various machines surrounding him, their humming and beeping not enough to drown out the strangled voice in the corner.
Vincent DeMarco sat near his son, rocking and frantically muttering to himself. Corrado had never seen him so out of control before, agitated and deranged almost like a feral animal. His sanity was slipping, his hair a dirty mess and his shirt soiled with blood. Vincent’s wife’s blood, to be precise . . . blood that had been spilled less than twenty-four hours before.
The sight of it sickened Corrado. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen Maura’s blood, but it would certainly be the last. She was dead and never coming back, but Vincent was clearly struggling to accept the truth.
“She’s can’t be gone.” The words caught in his throat. “This is my fault.”
Corrado wanted to tell him to stop being absurd, but it would be a waste of breath. He couldn’t comfort him. No words would take his pain away. And, truthfully, Corrado couldn’t imagine the anguish his brother-in-law felt. He didn’t fear death, didn’t fear jail or eternal damnation, but one thing he couldn’t fathom was losing Celia. He’d vowed to honor her, to cherish her, to protect her . . .
It was no wonder Vincent was so quick to take the blame. He had failed at that—he had failed to protect Maura.
“It’s my fault,” Vincent repeated. “She’s gone, and it’s my fault.”
Sighing, Corrado glanced back at his nephew. Carmine had been found near death behind Tarullo’s Pizzeria. They didn’t know what had happened yet, but one thing was clear: whoever ambushed them intended for the boy to die, too.
That fact made Corrado feel even sicker. He had never been particularly fond of children, with their needy ways and grubby little hands, but one thing he treasured was innocence. He envied it. He had murdered many men during his years with La Cosa Nostra, but he prided himself on never killing anyone he felt didn’t deserve his wrath.
And staring at his nephew, so helpless and vulnerable, Corrado couldn’t imagine what would possess someone to harm him. It was unheard of. Some things even the wickedest of men didn’t tolerate, and killing a kid in cold blood was one of those things.
Things were different now, though. As much as it infuriated him, times were changing, and he wondered what that meant for Carmine. At only eight years old, he had been thrown headfirst into the lifestyle. When he woke up—if he did—his world wouldn’t be the same. Whether Carmine liked it or not, he couldn’t escape the life. Not after this. He was now a part of it, and Corrado knew he would spend the rest of his life trying to make sense of the chaos.
Hatred brewed in Corrado’s gut, hot like molten lava. The longer he stood there, listening to the babble of a devastated man, the angrier he grew. All he could think about was getting revenge on the people who had hurt them. Not only did his vow to the organization demand it—an eye for an eye—but so did his weary heart.
Corrado’s heart, a decade later miraculously holding steady on the cardiac monitor, grew stronger every passing day. He would survive the shoot-out in the Chicago warehouse. The Kevlar Killer would live to see another day.
On December 1, after being comatose for six weeks, Corrado Alphonse Moretti opened his eyes.