Eva met with John Moody alone in Albert’s study. They sat across from one another at the large conference table as they had before.
“Are best wishes in order yet?” asked Moody, straight-faced.
“Not yet,” said Eva, blushing. “It’s a big decision, and I don’t want to rush it. I’m surprised he told you,” Eva added. “You must be good friends.”
“The best,” he affirmed. “I got into some legal difficulty a few years back when I was a trooper, and Albert not only defended me but ended up getting me a damn good settlement from the state so I could start this business. Then, he loaned me money to keep the business afloat when it hit the rocks that first year. I’d do anything for Albert.”
She was touched by his forthrightness. “You must think a great deal of Albert.”
“I do,” Moody said. “He’s an exceptional man.”
“Exceptional? How?” Eva asked.
“Full of contradictions,” Moody explained. “He’s generous and ruthless at the same time. He’s tough as nails, but sentimental about family. He’s an exacting taskmaster, but a patient mentor. Albert can be a great friend, but he’s a horrible enemy to have; and you don’t get second chances with Albert. If you cross him or lie to him or try to cheat him, he’s done with you because on the other side of that same coin, he’s a man of his word. If he promises something, he keeps that promise no matter what.” He nodded thoughtfully and added, “You’d be good for him.”
Eva cocked her head to one side and smiled. “Did he put you up to this?”
Moody shrugged. “Let’s just say he didn’t discourage me from putting in a good word,” he said. “But, I’m delighted on my own to think you might be joining the team.”
“You are?” she said, surprised.
“Yes, I am.” He folded his hands together on the table in front of him. “At first I had my doubts, I will admit. But, I haven’t seen Albert this happy in years; not since before his wife died has he been this happy. You make him happy and so I’m all for that.”
“Do you think his children would feel the same?” she said asked.
“ Not Junior.” He shook his head. “The apple may not fall far from the tree, but in Junior’s case the second it hit the ground, it rolled down the hill and off the cliff.”
“Junior’s a ‘taker’.” You’ll threaten him if he thinks you’re a ‘taker’ too. He’ll be afraid you’re going to take what he wants to take before he can take it.”
Eva pondered that as Moody drew several typed reports and a legal pad from his briefcase. “Are you ready for an update on your inquiries?” he asked her.
Eva nodded, tentatively. She was both anxious to know and afraid to hear what Moody had discovered.
“Rafael Mena is most likely dead,” he began, scanning the report in his hand.
“Oh, no!” Eva buckled as if she’s been punched hard in the stomach. Her head dropped into her hands and tears immediately filled her eyes.
Moody was stunned by her reaction. “I’m sorry,” he said. He waited several moments for Eva to recover before resuming. “I had no idea. I shouldn’t have been so blunt.”
“It’s not your fault,” Eva said, sniffling. “Are you sure?”
“We can’t be 100 percent positive,” he said, handing her a handkerchief. “We bribed one of Blanco’s’ goons and the most he would tell us was that Rafael Mena had angered the Blanco’s and so he no longer lived on the compound. He’s vanished into thin air which usually means … well … minimally, it means there are no further leads we can find to follow, anywhere. None. I’m sorry,” he said politely.
Eva wiped her eyes and blew her nose. “Thank you,” she said finally. “He was a good friend, a really good friend. I could never have escaped without his help. He risked his life for me. He risked everything for me.”
Moody nodded understandingly.
“I hate the Blanco’s!” she lashed out abruptly. “I want to punish them, hurt them, make them pay! They’re animals! Vicious animals! Why doesn’t someone stop them? Why aren’t they in jail?”
Moody paused and then said plainly, “Because they have powerful political friends and too much money to spread around for that to ever happen.”
Eva looked toward Albert’s wall of law books. How useless all those laws are if murderers like Carmella and Juan Blanco are free to kidnap, torture, and kill whoever they want. “It’s just so wrong,” she said, wiping her eyes. “It’s disgusting.”
Moody waited respectfully until Eva further composed herself. “Are you ready to hear about your cousin?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Eva. “Did you find her?”
“A doctor at the hospital where you left her took her in as a foster child and ended up adopting her a year later. She lives with that doctor and the doctor’s husband and their own two natural children, a boy and a girl, ages ten and twelve.”
Eva beamed “It sounds like she must be very happy.”
“Presumably,” said Moody. “We didn’t interview the girl herself, but indications are that she’s living in a loving, stable environment.”
“Can I see her?” Eva asked eagerly.
“You’d have to take that up with her new parents, the doctor and her husband,” said Moody.
“Do you think they would they mind?” Eva asked innocently.
“They may not have told her much,” Moody explained.
“Right,” Eva understood.
“Do you want to hear what we found out about you?” Moody asked her.
“Me?” she said, surprised.
“Yes, you,” he answered. “There’s an outstanding warrant which was issued for your arrest ten years ago.”
“What?” Eva snapped back in her chair, astonished. “My arrest!”