Marissa hadn’t gone by the last name of French in years. She’d successfully kept that part of her past a secret from the world around her. even when Toby’s friends had come looking for her, no one knew she was who they had been seeking. She was glad they’d never found her. and for good reason.
Toby, her son, had always made it plain that he wanted her dead. But that had been the doing of his father and grandfather. She had always been a burden to the French family. She had always represented something that Toffer had wanted desperately to forget.
He had raped her and gotten her pregnant with Toby. He had only married her out of need to save face, not out of love. After, he tried everything he could think of to kill her. but none of it worked.
She had been too tough. To full of life. Too full of the need to take him down. And she had done her part in the ‘50’s.
Still, his crooked dealings with the Mob and his attempt to force the Morrows out of business had sealed his fate. When his fraudulent ledgers were discovered and turned in to the government, his days were numbered. By ’59, he was dead. But then, so was Toby.
Now, she stood looking at the grave of her ex-husband and son. The two were buried side-by-side with ordinary stones at the end of the French family plot. There had been no mausoleum for them. By their deaths, the French family’d had no money left. And no home.
The business had been taken over by the Mafia, then sold to Morrow Mills for a pauper’s sum. The Mafia had no use for a milling company. They had only taken it over long enough to make back what Toffer had owed them. Then they sold it for less than it was worth.
Perhaps they had known that what profit they didn’t make would have to be put into the business just to make it pass code. She didn’t know. By then, she had put Toffer, Toby, and French Industries behind her and started a new life with Francisco De La Verde.
Frank had been good to her. he had been as good to her as Toffer had been mean. He had lavished her with gifts for twenty years and, in return, she gave him six beautiful daughters. But time had not been as nice. Frank had died on their eldest’s twentieth birthday. What should have been a wonderful and happy day for all had turned into a nightmare of loss and mourning. But her daughters had kept her going.
Now, as her youngest turned twenty, she stood pondering why she had returned to Des Moines. What had she come looking for? Closure? A new hope?
“Haven’t seen you here for a while,” Michael Morrow’s voice brought her out of her thoughts, “I hope life has been good to you, Marissa.”
“Do you come here often?” She asked.
“Not really,” he admitted, “Sorry to hear about your husband. Frank Verde was a good man.”
“Why’d you come, Mike?” She asked, curious.
“I saw you standing here,” he replied, “and wanted you to know about your grandchildren.”
“You mean Matt,” it was more of a statement.
“Well,” Michael replied, “Yes. But Natalia has more than just Matt. I suppose that they would all call you grandma if given a chance.”
“How is Nattie?” She inquired.
“As good as can be expected,” he replied, “Matt just made her go into rehab but she still lives in her head. Reality has no relevance to her. whatever toby did to her, it messed her up beyond any fixing.”
“Toby was good at destroying people,” she said with a shrug, “me included. I spent years hiding from him. and Toffer. I didn’t want to believe that they were dead.”
“In ’60, Nattie had a visitor,” Michael replied, “who was trying to fulfill Toby’s threat for him. they ran into a man named Kendrick Wells. Afterward, they disappeared…as did Ken.”
“Is that how Toffer died?” She asked, hopefully.
Michael shrugged. “I don’t know. Only a handful have that knowledge and I was never included. I really don’t want to know. I’d just as soon go with popular belief and think that the Mob took care of him.
“I just hope that he is at peace now. God knows he wasn’t at peace in life. Neither of them were.”
“Who watches over Nattie?” She pondered.
Michael looked over at her. “Tom Goldman, Ken’s old partner. He has been watching over her for us since the ‘60’s after we found out where she was. He has followed her for us ever since. He is also legal guardian over Matt.” He looked around. “why don’t we go somewhere where it is less…somber. I know that Val would love to talk to you.”
Jim Wallace was old. Twenty years had taken their toll on him. he had been a great man at one time, but now he was little more than a memory in the city that he had kept secrets for. But he had one last secret to keep and he would take it to his grave.
Hoover was ill. Americans didn’t know. The President didn’t know. But Hoover was ill.
He had been ailing for some time. The Presidents had all been afraid of the man. They had claimed he was the devil. But in the end, even Hoover’s deep hate for the country’s diversity could not elongate his life. He was, after all, human despite the attempts of others to demonize him.
Jim smiled. He only hoped that he could live long enough to see the end of the evil little man that had held the country hostage. It would be poetic justice. Hell. It would be literal justice, especially for all those Hoover had exiled or imprisoned wrongly.
Only time would tell if he, Jim, would outlive the man who’d become his mortal enemy. Still, it didn’t hurt to have hope.