Chapter 1: Now
The rain fell in a fine mist as Anthony James Tremonti stepped out of his car. He looked up at the cold, grey sky as he pulled on his overcoat. "Perfect weather," he thought to himself, as he raised the collar of his coat to protect himself against the elements. He closed the door to his rental, turned, and headed up the hill, where the burial was taking place.
Arriving at the gathering, he consciously remained at the back behind the main group. There were not many people there surrounding the coffin, the priest, and the hole in the ground; only twenty or so, but Anthony had made it a habit of drawing as little attention to himself as possible. It was a necessity in his line of work.
As the priest began the rites of burial, Anthony looked around at the people that had gathered. Most he did not recognize, but, even after ten years of being away, there were some that he did. Standing with the group nearest the funeral, he supposed he'd have recognized them had it been two or three decades since he'd seen them last. Donatella Dellucci and Allison Peterson. As physically opposite as two stunningly beautiful women could be, back then they were the alpha and the omega of the high school social scene. Now, a decade later, while they had definitely matured, he could still see the girls he'd known so many years before.
That he'd heard about the funeral at all was mere coincidence. He had been watching the national news one night, absent-mindedly, while he went over some business details, when the words of the anchor had drawn his attention:
" ... and in Detroit today, Jonathan Poundstone, brother of prominent business owner Paul Poundstone, was brutally gunned down outside a suburban grocery store. His death has been attributed to the growing organized crime problems the city faces, and no suspects have been identified. Services will be held Friday at..."
A decade ago, John Poundstone had been one of Anthony's closest friends. Anthony had taken John, then two years his junior, under his wing, and they'd enjoyed a close friendship. John's older brother Paul, at least back then, had been captain of the football team, and had been the on again-off again boyfriend of Ali Peterson. At least until the incident ... but that was neither here nor there.
When Anthony heard about John's death, he felt he owed it to his friend to be there for the ceremony. While it was wishful thinking at best, he had hoped he wouldn't run into anyone he knew. Explaining his sudden departure and how he'd spent the last ten years was not something he particularly was interested in doing.
Shaking himself from his thoughts, Anthony noted that the priest had finished with his rites, and the pallbearers had begun to lower the casket into the ground. It was only then that he noticed Paul Poundstone, John's brother, standing by the graveside. He was flanked by two large men, bodyguards by the look of their size and the cut of their jackets. Anthony squeezed his arms together; in doing so he felt the reassuring bulk of the Sig in his shoulder holster dig into his side. It was his constant companion these days, and had been for some time now.
While Anthony's attention had been focused on Paul and his body guards, he had missed the fact that by chance, Donna Dellucci had happened to look up from the scene and see him, standing alone by himself, out away from the service. Something about the man's frame, the square of his jaw, the icy blue eyes she'd never forget, forced her memory to dredge up thoughts from long ago; memories of a person she never thought she'd see again. She was shocked at the sudden recall, and stunned by what had initiated it.
As the service ended, the crowd began to pay its last respects and move off. Finally, when all that remained was the gravedigger and the priest, Anthony made his way forward, coming to stand by the hole in the earth into which his old friend had descended.
"Via con dios, old friend," he said, as he dropped a single rose into the maw.
Lapsed Catholic though he was, Anthony still believed in a higher power, though he and they were not quite on speaking terms these days.
As he left the grave and headed back to his rental, the moment he'd hoped to avoid came to pass. He heard the voice call to him.
"AJ?" she said, her voice as dulcet to his ears as he remembered. It stabbed into his chest like a white hot lance. "AJ, is that really you?"
Anthony, or, as Donna remembered him, AJ, turned to face the girl he'd known in what felt like a lifetime ago. When his cold blue eyes met her sparkling green ones, she knew she had been correct in her assumption.
"Oh my God, AJ," she said, covering her mouth with a delicate hand in astonishment, "Oh my God. AJ, what happened to you?" She walked up to him and stood there. He still outstood her by a good seven to ten inches, and eight years in the Marine Corps and various other... activities had made sure he'd filled out.
"Hi, Donna," AJ said, plainly, with as little emotion as he could. "How have you been?"
Donna, for her part, was almost speechless. Here was the boy, no, the man, that she had thought she loved so long ago, only for him to disappear off the face of the earth after that horrible day ten years prior. And now, just like he'd gone, out of the blue he'd returned. She reached out with that same hand and touched his face, as if to make sure he was really there, and not just some figment of her imagination. Her finger traced the length of the two-inch-long scar that bisected his cheek just below his right eye.
"AJ, where have you been?" she asked, not knowing if she could quite control the emotions that threatened her composure right then. "Where did you go for ten years?"
AJ had thought this was the worst case scenario. Of all the people he could have run into, Donna was the one person he didn't want to see, or more appropriately, didn't want to see him. Now, here she was.
"It's ... complicated," he said, his voice a deep baritone. "I needed to get away after ... what happened."
"Are you home, here ... back, I mean, to stay?" she asked, her voice betraying the hope in her heart.
"No," AJ replied, decisively. "I just came to pay my respects to John."
"Oh." Donna visibly sagged at his response. "I'd forgotten that you knew Paul's brother."
"Back then I did," he said. "Things change, but I was his friend then. I'm his friend now."
She looked up at him, hope returning to her voice. "You were my friend, too."
"Things change, Donna. People change," AJ said. "I'm not the kind of person you need as a friend."
Back then, Donna's father was an extremely wealthy businessman, the head of a construction cartel that had a hand in every piece of commercial building from here to Dallas. He'd been gunned down by a Colombian assassin four years ago, during the onset of the Detroit turf wars, after which Donna had inherited the reins to the corporation. As such, Donna Dellucci was a ridiculously wealthy woman.
"Maybe I should decide that for myself," she said. "Please, AJ, will you have dinner with me later? Or tomorrow, whenever. I don't know what your plans are, but I'd like to see you before you disappear for another ten years."
AJ didn't know why he said it. Every part of his finely honed sense of self-preservation was shouting at him to run for the hills, and maybe firebomb the bridges on the way out, but strangely enough, the words that came out of his mouth didn't quite mesh with the thoughts in his brain.
"I think that can be arranged."
The way Donna's face lit up, it could have powered the Las Vegas strip.
"Really?" she said, not quite believing his answer to be true.
"I promise," he said, reassuring her, "that I will see you before I leave. I have some other business to attend to while I'm here, but I will call you later today, okay?"
She nodded, reaching into her purse to get something to write on. "Just let me find a business card, it has my cel number..." He cut her off.
"Donna." She stopped digging and looked up at him. "Don't worry about it. I know where to find you."
Again, inexplicably, as the very nature of the act went against his better judgment, he leaned forward and lightly kissed her forehead. It was a simple gesture, but one that meant more to both of them than either would readily admit. With that, he turned, and strode quickly to his vehicle, and departed the scene.
As she watched him make what she could only thing of as a retreat, Donna stood there, in the falling rain, stunned by his sudden reappearance. She was shook out of her daze by a light hand on her shoulder. She turned to find Allison standing right behind her.
"Who was that guy, Donna?" she asked, curious.
"AJ," Donna replied, still half dazed.
"AJ?" Ali replied, not putting the name with the face from her past. Then it suddenly clicked. "You mean AJ?"
Donna nodded, and Ali promptly fainted.
Nearby, parked on a hill overlooking the funeral, sat a non-descript box van. Inside sat three members of the Detroit Police Department's Organized Crime Unit, including one Lieutenant Jennifer Stonewick.
"Hey, Lieutenant," said Hollings, the man currently observing the scene through a pair of high powered binoculars. "Something odd just happened."
Jennifer bored to be on stakeout, again, acknowledged him with mild interest. "Define odd?"
"The funeral had just broken up," Hollings explained, "This guy waits till everyone leaves, goes to the grave, drops a rose on the casket, and is walking away, when Dellucci stops him. They talk for a minute or two, then he kisses her on the forehead, I think, and walks away. Then the Peterson chick walks over, Dellucci says something to her, and she faints dead away."
Jennifer bolts upright in her chair. "You get a picture of this guy?"
This time, Parker, the computer technician, speaks up. "Yeah, I got coverage of the whole thing with the roof remote cam."
"Bring those pictures up," Jennifer ordered. She was getting a sinking feeling in her stomach that her job may have just got a lot more interesting, and not necessarily in a good way. Parker clicks his mouse a few times and calls up the high-resolution digital stills that were taken with the van's remote controlled roof-mounted camera. One of them shows Anthony's face, clear as day.
"Sonuvabitch," Jennifer said, barely more than a whisper.
"You know that guy Lieutenant?" Hollings asks.
"A long time ago, I did," she replies. "He disappeared from here about ten years ago, right after the Starkwater incident."
Parker, who'd been on Dellucci surveillance for quite some time, put two and two together quickly. "Bullshit. Bull. Shit. Are you telling me that's Tremontti?"
"I think it is," she replied, "No one's seen him for years, so no one really knows, but he looks like I'd imagine Tremontti would look like now."
"You want me to pull his file?" Parker asked.
"Don't bother," Jennifer said, "I already did a few years ago, when I was gathering info on the Dellucci family. The file is extremely sparse, and what is there is redacted like you wouldn't believe. However he's spent the last decade, he's made some friends in some very high places. In fact, you'll probably red flag us just for accessing it."
"Gotta be a spook then," Hollings said.
"Maybe," she agreed, "but we need to be very careful. Who's our best tail?"
"Probably Sanders, out of Major Case," Parker suggests.
Jennifer nods. "Pull him off whatever he's doing and put him on Tremontti. Observation only. And keep this quiet, until we know more. I have a sinking feeling the status quo around here just changed in a major way."
Anthony picked up the tail three hours later. The guy was good, for a local, but in his line of work, Anthony ate those guys for lunch. Regardless, Anthony was not trying to hide his movements, for the time being anyways, and allowing the DPD's tail to remain tailing him kept as low of a profile as he could. Hiding in plain sight, sort of.
Anthony did, however, stop by a florist shop, and have the largest bouquet of flowers he could buy delivered to one Lt. Jennifer Stonewick's desk the next morning, with a card that read, "If you want to talk to me Jen, tell your boy to just ask me. You know where I am." That would let her know that he was well aware of her attempts at surveillance, and just how effective they would be should they continue.