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Inferno

By´╝ÜCatherine Doyle

PART I

‘I shall know you, secrets

by the litter you have left

and by your bloody footprints.’

Lola Ridge, ‘Secrets’



CHAPTER ONE

THE POLICE



The detectives hitched themselves shoulder to shoulder at the end of my bed. I could feel them studying the bruises that were pooling under my eyes.

‘Miss Gracewell, can you tell us how you sustained your injuries?’

I side-glanced at my mother, making my most subtle oh-crap face. What was I supposed to say? Point into the hallway in the direction of the Falcones and shout, ‘The murderers are thatta way!’?

Gently she laid a hand on my shoulder. The game was omertà and the objective was not to get killed for snitching. The word flashed in my head like a neon sign: omertà, omertà, omertà. The vow of silence, and we were all bound up in it. Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die.

‘A fall,’ I lied. ‘Unfortunate, really.’

‘A fall,’ repeated the first cop, Detective Comisky. His moustache was twitching like a big grey caterpillar. His partner, Medina, had dark beady eyes. They were bulging, hoping. I could almost taste it – their need to prove themselves, to catch a Mafia assassin – or two, or ten. They were close, in a way. Between the endless fleet of mafiosi milling freely in the hospital corridors, Jack’s dead henchmen at the warehouse, and my admission into hospital alongside the bullet-wounded Falcone underboss, things were already pretty suspect.

‘Are you certain about that?’ Comisky pressed.

I clamped my mouth shut and nodded, trying to ignore the distant well of panic inside me. Maybe speaking to the police would have been the right thing to do, but we knew that having Nic watching over me in my hospital bed was not enough to keep the others at bay if we tried to compromise their freedom. Sure, I had saved Luca, but Valentino could hardly let it pass if I broke the sacred rule of omertà.

‘Very well, Miss Gracewell,’ said Comisky, his tone decidedly icier. ‘Can you, instead, tell us how you came to be brought into this hospital with Gianluca Falcone?’

I feigned a frown. ‘Was I?’

His frown was much more convincing. ‘Miss Gracewell, do you have any information about the warehouse shoot-out in Old Hegewisch two nights ago?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Miss Gracewell, can you explain your relationship with the Falcone family?’

‘The who?’

‘Miss Gracewell, can you tell us what you know about your father’s relationship with the Falcone family?’

‘Excuse me?’ That one got me right in the throat. My words went all wobbly and I struggled for the right level of nonchalance. Beside me, my mother bristled. Why would they bring that up? They were trying to rattle me, and it was working.

‘Detectives, if you could leave Sophie’s father out of this, I’d appreciate it,’ she interjected, buying me some time to compose my thoughts. For a moment, she seemed completely unruffled. Sometimes I forget she has dealt with the police before. She had watched them take her husband away.

Unpleasantness twanged in my chest. I wished my father were with us. I wished we weren’t so marooned without him. He had left us to face everything alone, and it had almost killed us. Still, I was determined not to let the detectives see how much it bothered me. I was determined not to let them know my weakness.

The cops flicked their attention briefly to my mother, and then ploughed on, undaunted by her request. ‘Miss Gracewell, did your father have something to do with this?’

I didn’t miss a beat that time. ‘My father’s in jail, detectives.’

A patronizing smile lifted the caterpillar moustache from Comisky’s face. ‘That’s not what I asked.’

I felt very cold all of a sudden, and my mother, so unwavering just moments ago, had gone deathly quiet. If I looked at her too long, I could see the ashen skin beneath her sparing make-up. Her fingernails were chewed so close to her skin they were bleeding. Secrets. Lies. They had nearly destroyed us. I lifted my chin and levelled the detectives with my gaze. ‘Well, that’s your answer.’

Detective Comisky puffed up his chest and released a deep grating sound. Medina stifled a yawn. He was obviously the smarter of the two, since he looked like he wanted to go home and take a nap rather than continuing to beat a dead horse. Already I was finding their visit exhausting. Talking is difficult enough when injured, but lying is infinitely harder. Maybe it was the tail end of a morphine crest, but my mind was wandering and I was starting to think Detective Comisky looked disconcertingly like Maurice from Beauty and the Beast.

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