Chapter 33: “I’m sorry that you got dragged into this.”

MONDAY, 14TH DECEMBER, 2009

The hospital released Mykhaylo on Monday afternoon. When I arrived to pick him up, he was tired as fuck. He dropped to the ground a few times as we headed for my car. I put him in the backseat, and as he dozed off, I headed straight for his apartment.

At 250 Jarvis, I dragged him out of the car, and a short elevator ride later, we were back in his apartment. As I carried him to his bedroom, he moaned softly. When we got in, he collapsed right onto his bed.

“Can you take my shoes and jacket off, Graz?” he asked, ever so groggy. I quickly obliged, and soon, he was tucked into bed, even though it was only 5PM.

“Would you like something to eat?” I asked.

“Soup,” he replied before dozing off.

In his kitchenette, I found some cans of President’s Choice Organics Bean Medley and a box of President’s Choice Organics Chicken Broth, enough to make some nice soup. Raiding his fridge, I came across plenty of leftovers, as well as some Ukrainian condiments and thingies. Fortunately, there were some carrots and a bag of President’s Choice Mushrooms Ravioli. I decided to add those to the soup as well. I called Brandon to tell him that I would be home later, and then I began to make dinner.

Within an hour, the ravioli, bean, and vegetable soup was ready, and Mykhaylo was up as well. In the living room, I laid out two bowls of the soup on the coffee table, along with some crackers. Mykhaylo and I sat on the couch and tucked in to what turned out to be a rather delicious soup. Soon, Mykhaylo was feeling a lot better.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked afterwards.

“Yeah.”

“What exactly happened that night?”

Mykhaylo sat straight up almost immediately. “Are you sure you want to know?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Yeah!”

He took a deep breath. “My friends and I were at Bymark, having a few drinks. We were going to a party later. This woman came up and started to flirt with us. I didn’t really like it. Then, I realized that I needed to take some TUMS, but I didn’t have any on me. So, she offered me some out of her bag. Being a gentleman, I took them.”

He shook his head, and tears began to form in his eyes. “I had no idea it was GHB, Graz. I didn’t even think that they could make it into a fucking tablet! All I remember was that I felt so sick afterwards, that I had to go home. And when I got home, I just blacked out.” And then, he sobbed, “I’ve never been so scared in my life!”

I held him as he bawled into my coat. Ten minutes later, he stopped. “I’m sorry, baby,” he said, wiping his tears with his sweater.

“What did this woman look like, Mykhaylo?” I asked.

“Oh, she had big tits, brown hair, and wore really dark red lipstick. She said that her name was Charlotte–”

“CHARLOTTE?!” I exclaimed.

“What?”

“That fucking bitch!” I snapped. “I knew she had something to do with this.”

Mykhaylo was confused. “That woman is your sister?”

“Unfortunately,” I nodded furiously. “Mykhaylo, there’s something you should know. My grandparents and Evan died because of my parents and Charlotte. Charlotte arranged Evan’s murder when she was in New York.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“I am. Claire’s been using a private eye, and he secretly heard Charlotte talking about it rather cavalierly with Sissy Vandenbroucke.”

“Sissy? The girl who tried to beat you up a few weeks ago at the ice rink?”

“The one and the same, that bitch.”

Mykhaylo couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and I didn’t blame him. “But why would Charlotte want to poison me? And how the hell did she even find me?” he wondered aloud.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents hired their own private eye beforehand,” I said, sinking back into the sofa. “Charlotte’s boyfriend is a private eye, but they wouldn’t dare use him because they prefer to ‘outsource’ people like that.”

“That’s all very well,” Mykhaylo said. The fear in his voice was thick. “But why would she do that?”

“Because you and Claire and Brandon are the portals,” I said, taking his trembling hand. “I’m the one they’re trying to scalp.”

Mykhaylo looked at me, his eyes widening in horror. “Claire and Brandon?” he asked. “Someone tried to kill them?”

I nodded. “I ran into Claire at the hospital. She had been involved in a car accident earlier yesterday. She’s okay. Earlier, in the waiting room, I saw on the news that Aparecida, my dad’s ‘companion’ for lack of a better phrase, had been beaten up. She’s also okay. I’m going to visit her tomorrow. But when I got back to my apartment, I saw Brandon, and someone had beaten him up in the parking lot. Mykhaylo, it may seem bizarre, but I doubt that what happened to you and all my friends is a coincidence.”

And now I was getting emotional. “I’m sorry that you got dragged into this,” I said.

“Don’t be,” Mykhaylo said, finding some strength. “You had no idea that your family was that fucked up.” He squeezed my hand, and I squeezed back.

TUESDAY, 15TH DECEMBER, 2009

Hospitals have become my second home, so even though I was tired of being in them, even as a visitor, I had to see Aparecida. So, after lunch, I drove up to the Scarborough Hospital to check on her.

When I walked into her room, she was sitting up in her bed, reading a magazine. She looked like absolute shit, but she was still alive. When she looked up at me, her eyes lit up. “Graziano!” she exclaimed.

We embraced gently, and I was careful not to compress any part of her fragile and still-healing body. I pulled up a chair. “I don’t need to ask how you’re feeling,” I said.

“No,” she said. “You’re my first visitor today. How did you know I was here?”

“I saw it on the news. Anyway, that’s why I’m here, not just to check on you.”

“I’ll save you the trouble, Graziano. Your father had some fucking goons beat me up,” Aparecida said rather casually. It confirmed my suspicions, but it was still rather hard for me to hear. However, Aparecida came across as not that surprised.

“What happened?” I asked.

Aparecida then launched into an explicit and detailed account of the attack. She and Joseph had an argument a few nights earlier, and I was the subject. She couldn’t take it anymore and gave him the riot act about how lousy a father he was. They bickered all night, and before long, their “relationship” was over. She thought that she would never see him or his likes again, but when she went for a walk in Scarborough on Saturday night, well, she was proved wrong. Some Albanian dudes cornered her in the park, and for the next thirty minutes, they gang-raped and assaulted her like you wouldn’t believe. They thought that she was dead afterwards, so they put her in an inconspicuous part of the park, pissed on her, and one of them said, “This is for Joseph Buonfiglio, you fucking bitch!” The truth was that she simply passed out.

It took fifteen minutes for Aparecida to relay the story of her experience to me. When she was finished, she was surprisingly stoic and resilient. I could have never been like that, if I had to tell a story like that to anyone. I’d be a blubbery mess.

And then I told her about what had happened to Mykhaylo, Claire, and Brandon, and that my family was out to get me. Aparecida looked at me and said, “Call the fucking police. Those bitches need to be fucking destroyed.”

I couldn’t have agreed more. But there was one thing that I needed to do before I could talk to the police: I needed to talk to Claire. I bid Aparecida goodbye and a good recovery, and a half-hour later, I was at Claire’s apartment in Kensington Market.

This was the first time that I had ever been in Claire’s apartment, and Claire welcomed me with an open arm (her other arm was still in a sling). Her place, however, was less than welcoming. There were piles of papers and books everywhere.

“Your place looks like a hoarder’s paradise,” I said.

“Okay, it does,” Claire said, “but there’s a reason. Until the day of the accident, I was in the middle of re-organizing everything. I can’t do it again until my arm heals. I’d ask you to help, but my way of organising things is rather complicated.”

We sat down in her kitchen, and she offered me some dark hot chocolate, which she was able to make despite using only one free arm. It tasted pretty good, even if she didn’t have any marshmallows to top it with.

“Claire, can you tell me about the accident?” I asked.

“What do you want to know?” she responded.

I put down the mug. “How did it happen?”

Claire finished her hot chocolate and sighed. “I had just left the neighbourhood, and I was driving along Yonge, when in my rear-view mirror, I saw this yellow Hummer come towards me. I couldn’t recognize the driver, but the Hummer kept following me. Whenever I sped up, the driver would speed up. Whenever I slowed down, the driver would slow down. It went on for twenty minutes, and then, just like that, I found myself right against a telephone pole.”

She shook her head. “I didn’t see the car after that. I did see the licence plate, though. It read ITA-LIA.”

I froze. ITA-LIA was the license plate number on Joseph and Nadine’s Hummer! Now, all the pieces of the puzzle had fit.

“Graziano?” Claire tapped my arm.

“Sorry,” I said. “Claire, I hate to break this to you, but that van belongs to my parents.”

“Oh, shit,” she muttered. “You mean to tell me that they were trying to kill me?”

“And Mykhaylo. And Brandon. And Aparecida. You and they were attacked within 24 hours of each other.”

I expected Claire to shake her head in disbelief. Instead, she poured herself another cup of dark hot chocolate and sat there for a few moments, thinking to herself. And then, a look of absolute fear emerged on her face. She turned to me, trembling, and said, “They want to kill us to get to you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“You’ve nothing to be sorry for, young man,” she replied, giving me a reassuring grasp with her free hand. “I suggest you go to the police immediately. Goddess knows what shit your family’s about to pull next. And if they want to interview me, let them.”

I nodded and gave her a gentle hug. Twenty minutes later, I found myself in front of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Headquarters on College Street. I wasn’t really sure if that was the actual place to go to, but I had to get help somewhere. Eventually, I found a detective who agreed to hear my story.

For the next two to three hours, I explained everything in great detail, from my familial history to the events of the past 72 hours. I left no stone unturned. I made sure that everything that needed to be said was said. I made it quite clear that these four incidents were not random, but instead were part of a conspiracy to attack me.

When I got back to the apartment, it had gotten dark, and Brandon had just returned home. Despite his injuries, he had vowed to continue working as if nothing had happened, which I thought was a bit foolhardy at first, but ultimately I agreed with him. I told him about my interview with the police, and that he should go down and tell his side of the story. Brandon agreed.

That night, I watched TV in my bedroom, with Britney snuggling next to me. As I looked at my cat, I thanked the gods and goddesses above that no one had tried to harm her. Had Britney been the fifth victim, I really would have shut down. It’s bad enough when you go after the people who I love, but when you go after my pet, it’s a line that you dare not fucking cross, lest you want to get your ass whooped.

SATURDAY, 19TH DECEMBER, 2009

By the time Saturday night came, things had simmered down in my life, as far as personal dramas were concerned. Life had to go on in some form. Aparecida, Brandon, Claire, and Mykhaylo all went to the police and told their sides of the story. I knew that it was the right thing to do.

On Saturday afternoon, Brandon and I picked up a faux Christmas tree, complete with lights, from the Wal-Mart on Lawrence Avenue, one of the few times that we had ever been to a Wal-Mart in the first place. At our apartment, we set up the tree in less than five minutes. We then began to decorate it with a hodgepodge of holiday baubles and trim, almost all of it Brandon’s. I added a few of my own, which I had made in school as a kid. Every year, I’d tuck them someplace in the tree so that it would remain there, but also so that Joseph and Nadine wouldn’t look.

As we finished, I caught a glimpse of the television. To my surprise, there was a live shot of Joseph and Nadine’s house on Oakridge Court in Brampton.

“Oh my God,” I muttered, turning up the volume.

“Is that where you lived?” Brandon asked.

“Unfortunately,” I replied.

The headline on the screen read: BRAMPTON FAMILY ARRESTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT MURDER. I could see that the house was decked in Christmas lights, and that apparently there was a party going on, as plenty of confused guests were in the driveway, talking to each other. And then, they cut to footage of Joseph, Nadine, and Charlotte being arrested and led away. All three of them were screaming as they headed for the police cars. The fact that they were arrested in their holiday finery brought a smile to my face. I felt like I had opened one of the best Christmas presents ever.

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