Title: The Conscience of a King
Author: Birgitt Schuknecht
Fandom: due South
Rating: PG
Pairing: none
Category: drama
Disclaimer: The characters used in the following story are not mine. I
do not make any money out of this. It's written for fun and for the fans
of the show.
Feedback: birgitt.schuknecht@uni-essen.de
Spoilers: inspired by "The Deal" (sequel to "Conscience of a Prince")

The Conscience of a King
by Birgitt Schuknecht

Author's note: This is the third instalment of my "Conscience"-cycle.
It's inspired by the ep "The Deal". "Conscience of a King" follows after
"Conscience of a Prince".

"Mr. Zuko! Mr. Zuko!" I am not sleeping. I jerk up and face the man who
tapped me on the shoulder seconds ago. "Charlie, what is it?" I
straighten my back, lean back in the chair and place my hands in my lap,
blinking rapidly. It's been years that I cried. After my wife's death, I
think... I am not sure. And it's not important.

Charlie clears his throat. "Are you all right, Mr. Zuko? Can I get you
something?" I nod to him. "A glass of water would be fine." After my son
left the room I sent Charlie out to contact my lawyer to join me after
lunch. I needed some moments for myself, after the revelation Francesco
has given me only some minutes ago. Charlie did not ask why he couldn't
use the phone in my study. He respects my wishes ever without
questioning. The most I would get from him is a rise of his right brow.
And even that outburst of emotion occurs very, very rarely.

I didn't hear him re-enter and realise that I was entranced by my
thoughts. Finally Francesco turns out to be the son I long for after
all. It was a promising performance he gave me, us, I might say, as
Charlie witnessed it all. And Charlie was the first to recognise this
new streak in Francesco. I nearly gave up all hope. Year after year my
son became more spoiled, cruel and irresponsible. He wouldn't stand up
for his actions, ever ready to lie, to find apologies for this or that.
Apart from his efforts in the basketball court there wasn't much to show
off in school as well. I know he had the brains to be one of the best,
but how he wasted his intelligence.

Until this morning... The line of thought he followed was - for a eleven
year old boy - impressive, to say the least. When I sent him out and
Charlie left me alone for some minutes all the emotions that I'd held
back during the conversation overwhelmed me and I allowed myself to give
into those emotions for once. Can there be any better reason for a
father's tears than the realisation that his dreams he has for his only
son can... will... come true? My business is unforgiving and I have to
play - and be - cool even with my family. Especially with my family. For
a man in my position his family is his weakness and his strength at the
same time. At the same time those dearest to my heart endanger and
support me.

Charlie comes with the glass of water. I snatch it from him rather
hastily, gulping the cool liquid down. After I sat down the glass on the
desk before me my stoicism is back and I have my emotions under control
once more. I give Charlie a little nod and the man answers in kind. It's
good to have such a man at your side. Charlie in the first place makes
sure that I can survive my constant struggle with life as a Chicago
mobster. They call me a businessman, all those seeking for my good-will.
Politicians, churchmen, and above all people of law enforcement. Isn't
it quite ironic that the people who should be after my head are the ones
who seek for my friendship most eagerly? They have accepted the truth
that they can't beat me and in consequence they try to get the best out
of this situation for themselves. Lawyers, judges, police officers of
high rank. And the rest of the force follow their leaders. A perfect
symbiotic relationship, rewarding for both sides.

And now is the time to ask for some favours. Everything will run
smoothly in this matter. My anger about my son's actions has cooled down
by now. If we do this with style the outcome will even be a profitable
one. It will strengthen my grip on the people in this neighbourhood.
They will learn anew that it's not recommendable to confront a Zuko. Be
it the son or the father.

"Charlie, do you know what pleases me most in this?" Charlie knows that
I do not expect an answer. "The key to success is a mere boy, the son of
a family I always thought of as bad news for almost eight years now. The
time has come to have the final revenge on the Vecchios. Raymond Vecchio
is going to pay for his father's sins. Doesn't that sound like a divine
verdict?" Sometimes I hate the life I lead, but moments like these
compensate for many hardships I have to endure.

A little cough from Charlie let me look up at his face. "Mr. Zuko, may I
ask you something?" My questioning look is enough for him to go on. "Mr.
Zuko, I always wondered why you didn't let me kill off Ernesto Zuko. God
knows, this rat deserved it." Those words astonish me. "Why, Charlie,
you never told me so before. You never questioned my decision."

Any other man would have been thrown off balance by the warning I hid in
my answer. Not so Charlie. He knows exactly how far he can go with me.
This time is no exception from the rule. "Mr. Zuko, you know that I do
not question you. Not then, not now. It's just... I'm curious. Ernesto
Vecchio endangered your life and that of your family and what is perhaps
even more important, your reputation. You were at the edge of losing
everything. And all you let me do was..."

"... breaking him. Yes, isn't that the most cruel thing that you can do
to a man? To take away his self-respect? Charlie, you of all people
should know that!" As I intended this last remark goes home true. When
he started working for my father all those years ago he was nothing more
than a little criminal without family and friends, without hope to
survive the next day, without a perspective in life. My father
recognised his potential and gave him a home and something to live for.
The Zuko family became the centre of Charlie's existence. And it still

"Killing him would have meant an easy escape for him. Ernesto was ever a
fellow to look for the easy way out. He shouldn't get that possibility
after what he'd done to my family." I'm surprised how much I still hate
the man. No wonder that the prospect of seeing his son go down fills me
with... satisfaction. Charlie stares at me. "What is it, Charlie? Aren't
you convinced that I'm right about Ernesto?" This breaks the spell.
"No... I mean yes, Mr. Zuko. You are right. I was just thinking that I
won't wish to anger you in any way." Charlie is no flatterer, he means
what he says. "Well, Charlie, that's exactly what it's all about, isn't
it? And now I have to get dressed. I have an appointment for lunch -
with my family!"


Lunch with my children was delighting and the conversation I had with
Varese, the lawyer, was enlightening. I feel ready now to set my plans
in motion. I call the Mitranis. Their housekeeper informs me that
Umberto and Claudia are in the hospital. Just as well. That will enable
me to kill two birds with one stone. I can talk to Umberto and check on
his son, demonstrating my concern for his well-being.

On the way to the hospital I fill Charlie in about what Varese told me
about the chances that Raymond Vecchio will be convicted. "Varese is
convinced that we need a psychological report that Ray Vecchio is
capable of attempted murder. All we have so far are the testimonies of
the janitor and the patrol officers. All three confirm that Marco and
Ray were the only people at the crime scene. And Ray was found with the
weapon still in his hands. The janitor, Mr. Putrami, also states that he
hasn't seen anyone else on the school yard that evening. There is and
there will be no witnesses against these facts. Then there is the
weapon. Forensics has detected fingerprints of Marco and Ray on it, no
one else's of course. The best thing is that we doesn’t have to
manipulate the Mitrani family in this. Before I spoke to Varese I made
another phone call to the hospital. Marco will survive. He stabilised
enough to undergo some neurological tests. He’s brain damaged -
permanently. No way he will testify against Francesco. Nonetheless,
there are no witnesses of the attack itself... We need a testimony to
convince the jury that Ray Vecchio suffers from the shock of committing
such a horrible crime. And not from witnessing the attack... So the
psycho report will do as a nice round-up for the whole affair."

Charlie doesn't say anything to my explanations. I feel that he is not
convinced. "Oh come on, Charlie, those shrinks can put anything into
such a report. And jury and judges just love those things. It'll work,
that will push him over the edge..." I feel Charlie's gaze on me. "Now,
not again that look, Charlie. You still don't understand my motives, do

Charlie's eyes lock with mine. "No, Mr. Zuko, I still can't see why your
hate of the Vecchios is so great that you want to crush this boy. He
wasn't the one who betrayed you. It was his father..." I lose my
patience now. "Exactly. As I told you before, the sins of the fathers
become the responsibilities of the sons. I had to live with it, my son
has to live with it and Ray Vecchio will be no exception. His father
made me fear for my life. He showed me what it means to have no one to
trust. This I will never forget. And the Vecchios won't be able to
forget it either." I am yelling now. Charlie is stunned, but also
intrigued by my outburst. I cannot allow him to get the better of me.
With an effort that nearly breaks me I try to calm down. My voice sounds
normal when I say, "Look, Charlie. Just see it as a part of a family
feud. You should know how we Italians feel about that. It's part of our
heritage and our reputation. This will gain a lot of reputation for me,
don't you see that?" With relief I register his nod. "I can see clearly
now, Mr. Zuko. And I will be at your side, be sure of that." I know that
he's holding back. But that will have to do for now. I need his support.
I should be more careful not to show this fact too openly. In the next
minute the car stops and we get out of it, and make our way into the
hospital. When we reach the surgery section, my hold on my emotions is
strong again.

I find Umberto Mitrani and his wife with Marco's doctor. Dr. Morris is
well-known to me. One of my donations to the hospital made it possible
for him to run his quite remarkable surgery section on this grounds. Ten
years ago it was planned to close surgery down completely, now it's the
most prominent of all hospital facilities. His reaction to my appearance
during his conversation with Umberto and Claudia shows his gratefulness
to me. In a flash he stands before me, shaking my hand.

"Mr. Zuko... what..." I cut him short. "Dr. Morris, I did not wish to
disturb you now, but your secretary insisted to let me into your
office..." There's no need to end this sentence. "By all means, Mr.
Zuko. Without you this section would be non-existent and what would have
happened then to little Marco?! You know the Mitranis..."

Umberto and Claudia kept their seats, but turned to the doctor and
myself, as we stand in the still open door. They hold hands in a tight
grip and their faces show their concern for their son. There had been
times when I had envied Umberto Mitrani for the love that he shared with
his wife and son. Not anymore. In the last years that love made him soft
and he lost his bite. Years ago the plan I have ready now would have
been impossible.

But that has to wait till I speak to him in private. "Claudia, Umberto,
I was devastated when I heard about Marco." Their reaction to my words
show clearly that they already heard... rumours. I decide to ignore
their stares as best I can and go on. "I came here to check on little
Marco. Please be sure that I'll do anything that's in my power to see
the one who did that to you and your son brought to justice."

Umberto's voice is barely more than a whisper. "Thank you, Fredo. I...
We appreciate your concern." His face falls and tears spill from his
eyes. In the next moment his wife encircles him with her arms. Claudia
gives me a guarded glance over Umberto’s shoulder, but then she
concentrates on comforting the man in her arms. I always knew that she
was the stronger person in the relationship.

"Doctor Morris, can you give me a detailed report of the patient's
condition?" Dr. Morris has some difficulty to ignore the sobs behind his
back, as he answers me. "Mr. Zuko, I... I was just in the middle of
explaining to Mr. and Mrs. Mitrani..." Holding up my right hand in a
calming gesture I interrupt him. "I see, and as I said I wish not to
interfere here. I'll be talking to you when you finished your
conversation with the Mitranis. No need for haste. I'll have other
business on my mind. If you can just tell me where I can find Raymond
Vecchio? And the name of the doctor who's treating him, please."

Doctor Morris is visibly relieved to see the back of me. Nonetheless he
frowns a little at my question. "Raymond Vecchio? Why yes, he's in
psychology. As I heard the boy is under severe shock. Dr. Caulfield
would be in charge." I clasp the doctor's arm for a short moment. "Thank
you, Dr. Morris. And by all means take good care of Marco Mitrani. He
will have the best treatment, no matter the costs. Did I make myself
clear?" With a little shudder the doctor backs away from me, avoiding to
look into my eyes. "I understand completely, Mr. Zuko. I will personally
see to it."

With another nod I leave the doctor's office, not bothering to look
again at the Mitranis. I will deal with them later. Charlie waits for me
outside and we both make our way to psychology. Although I do not know
Dr. Caulfield in person, I expect no difficulties to get all the
information I want from him.


„Mr. Zuko, it’s an honour to meet in person, finally. My colleagues are
full of praise of your concern for our institution." Caulfield shakes my
hand heartily. Then we both sit down on the opposite sides of his office
desk. I try to assess the man before me. He’s in his late thirties, I
would guess, and extremely handsome with blonde hair and blue eyes. He
will do well before the jury in court. Especially the female members
will hang on to his lips...

„Dr. Caulfield, don’t speak of it. It’s you and your colleagues and your
work that is to be praised. And my being here today has nothing to do
with... charity." Round blue eyes look up to me in astonishment. „Let me
explain. I have an personal interest in one of your patients. Raymond
Vecchio. I presume you heard what happened to Marco Mitrani?"

The doctor shakes his head slowly. „Mr. Zuko, I’m sorry I have to tell
you this. There is no way that I can give you any details about a
patient. I’m sure you understand this. Don’t take it personal, Mr. Zuko.
It’s simply against regulations. Now, I’m a busy man, and if you excuse
me now..." Dr. Caulfield stands now and offers his hand for goodbye and
I take it automatically. For a second I feel anger rise up in me, but I
won’t let control slip this time.

So, it’s a change of tactics now. I release the doctor’s hand, smiling.
„Dr. Caulfield, I am sorry for my rashness. Of course you cannot give me
confidential information. You see, I’m a friend of the Mitrani family
and I am quite beside myself about the brutal attack on Marco. If I only
knew what brought Ray Vecchio to do such a horrible thing to his best

„But Mr. Zuko, I assure you that Ray Vecchio’s condition is still
too..." He stops midsentence. Better still. The good doctor is not only
good-looking, he is also intelligent enough to recognise when he’s
manipulated. He will be invaluable in court. „Dr. Caulfield, nothing
more about this. I understand completely. Let me be frank with you. No
one would be happier if we could find sufficient evidence that Ray is
not guilty. His father and I know each other for years. You see myself
in a dilemma. I want to see justice done, but I also worry about the
Vecchios. And now I seek a solution that would benefit both sides. Ray
has to be punished for his deeds, but he should face a fair trial. And
that means that we should look for possible explanations of his
behaviour. And if you need any assistance in this, let me know it. In
the meantime I will speak to Ray’s parents. They will inform me about
their son’s condition. So there would be no need to have you going
against regulations."

That should be enough for now. Dr. Caulfield eyes me with suspicion, but
I see that he is unsure about my motives. I watch his struggle silently.
Finally he nods. „I see, Mr. Zuko. Now, I think it’s all right if I tell
you that Ray’s parents are with their son now. You can wait here, I’ll
have to check on my patient now and I will tell Mr. Vecchio that you
want to speak to him."

The least I can give him is a reassuring smile which is no difficulty.
How often do you have a doctor running errands for you? „Thank your so
much, Dr. Caulfield, I appreciate that." I sit down again, as the doctor
leaves the office in a rush.

I do not have to wait for long. When the door opens in my back, I turn
round slowly and face Ernesto Vecchio, standing in the doorframe. I take
in his appearance with satisfaction. He looks older, much older than his
years. His hair is completely grey and in an unruly state. Usually dark
eyes are bloodshot now, his face is pale and unshaven. I haven’t spoken
to him in years, but there have been regular reports on him.
Nonetheless, seeing him in person gives me a far better impression of
what the past years have done to him. The next act in this little drama
should go very well.

„Ernesto, come in. I have to talk to you - about your son." I indicate
him to sit in the chair that stands beside me. He enters the room and
closes the door with a loud thud. I watch him staggering across the
office and when he’s near enough I’m able to take in a telling odour.
This man suffers still from a major hangover. With a sigh he sinks down
on the chair, closing his eyes for a brief moment. Then he looks at me
with suspicion. Ever the same Vecchio, although he’s near breaking
point, he’s always on the look-out for possible danger. „Fredo! It’s
been a long time. A very long time. But by the looks of you it’s been a
longer time for me than it has been for you."

Despite myself I admire what is still left of his spirit. Ernesto
Vecchio has always been good with words. It still shows. „Ernesto, is
this a compliment? Why thank you! What about you? Another taxing night
at Finelli’s? I hope you won this time. Ernesto, sometimes I wonder how
you and your family can possibly survive..."

He gives me a dirty look. „Don’t play with me, Fredo. What do you want,
eh? My son is in there," he nods in the direction of the office door,
„and they are still not sure if he survives this safe and sound." That
makes me laugh. „Now you’re playing with me, Ernesto. This is me you’re
talking to. I know! I know all about you and your family. And I know
exactly how much you care for your son." There. That should silence him
for some time.

„I told you I have to speak to you about your son. Ray’s in trouble, in
deep trouble. Apart from his momentary condition that is. But what he’s
done to poor Marco..." Ernesto jumps up, slightly swaggers on his feet.
„What makes you think that Ray did that to Marco? He is his best friend.
Ray may be a failure, but he never showed any cruelty. Unlike other
father’s sons I might add."

It’s a pity that such a man as Ernesto had to go down. Such a waste! But
I have no desire to change Ernesto Vecchio’s fate. What he did to me and
my family - thinking of it again gives me enough anger to answer him in
a steely voice. „What makes me think you ask? That should be clear
enough. I’m well-informed on the proceedings in this matter. Your son is
the only suspect. He was found with the weapon still in his hands, poor
Marco lying at his feet..." I make a deliberate pause. Ernesto slumps
back in the chair, his face strained with exhaustion and fear.

„But I did not come here to gloat over you, Ernesto. I’m worried.
Worried about my neighbourhood. You must understand that I cannot let
those things happen in my neighbourhood. Ray has to pay for his actions.
And he will, I see to that personally. Nonetheless, your family is part
of my neighbourhood as well. For this reason I will ensure that Ray will
have a fair trial."

Ernesto breaks into a hysterical fit of laughter. I give him some time
to gain back his control. He’s quite breathless when he’s able to speak
again. „Wh... What? Fair? Y... you, Fredo Zu... Zuko speaking of
fairness? I’m sorry, Fredo, I should know what you understand as
fairness and justice. And here’s my answer. Thank you. But thank you,
no!" He struggles to his feet and turns to leave.

„You’ll have no chance, Ernesto. Ray will have no chance, not without my
help. All evidence is against him. There’s nothing that exonerates him.
The only one who could verify his innocence is Marco. But Marco won’t
testify. His brain’s permanently damaged." That hits him. He swirls
round to face me again, nearly losing his balance. „Will you now listen
to what I have to say to you, Ernesto? Your son’s life is at stake now.
Not the wager you normally take, I guess?"

For the third time Ernesto sinks into the chair. There’s no spirit left
in him now. High time for me to seal Ray Vecchio’s fate. „I already
spoke to my lawyer. You know Dottore Varese? He’s the best. And if you
agree to it he will defend your son in court. No, don’t interrupt me
now. Varese is sure about one thing. Ray stands no chance if he’s
pleading not guilty. The only way out is to go for reduced liability. If
his doctor writes an adequate psychological report, if he tells the
court that Ray wasn’t responsible for what he did to Marco..."

„Are you telling me that the only chance my son has is a doctor’s report
telling the world that he’s not right in his head, that he’s... he’s a
madman?" Good going, I’m finally there. „I’m afraid so, Ernesto." The
man hides his face in his hands. I have difficulties to understand his
mumbled words. „What will happen to him?"

I clear my throat. „A few years in psychiatry I guess. But what is that
against a life sentence? He will face an accusation of attempted murder.
Can you imagine what will happen to him in prison? Ernesto, you have the
chance now to show that you do care about your son. Don’t let him go
down!" I let him think about it. Finally he raises his head and nods.
„OK, I follow your advice. But I don’t think this is gonna work. I know
my son. He would never lie, even if it means to risk his life."

„That’s where you come in. You and Anita. You have to convince him that
it’s the only chance he has left. And he’s only eleven years old. He
surely does not want to go to jail, even if it means he has to lie. I
will speak with Dr. Caulfield. We’ll reach an understanding, I’m sure
about it. He’s an intelligent fellow. You just have to clear the way for
me, introducing me as a close friend of the family. I need access to
confidential information if I am to help your son. Do you understand?"
He nods slowly. „Well, I have some papers prepared for this. They will
give Dottore Varese and myself the right to pursue your and Ray’s
interests in this matter. Sign them and I will take care of the rest."

I pull out a folder from my brief case and hand it over to him. I see
him leaf through the papers, struggling with their content. With an
effort I keep my patience. Suddenly the door opens and a nurse shows up.
„Mr. Vecchio, your son is awake now." Ernesto’s head jerks up. „Oh,
thank you, I’ll come." In the next moment all papers are signed. I stuff
the papers back in to the folder and put it into the brief case. „Just
tell me one more thing, Fredo, why would you help my son? Don’t you
still hate my guts?" Again I regret the loss of Ernesto’s potential. „I
do, Ernesto, I do. But I’m not the man to let children pay for their
father’s faults."


I have no trouble entering Ray Vecchio’s room to join him and his
parents. I showed the papers to Dr. Caulfield and he seemed relieved
that he didn’t have to keep me away from Ray Vecchio any longer.
Intelligent as he is he must know that opposing my wishes could cost him
his career.

The boy in the bed looks very young and vulnerable. His dark hair hangs
into his pale face. His hands are tight fists. He tries to fight his
tears, not succeeding. He mother, Anita, is crying over him, sitting on
the left side of the bed. Ernesto stands beside me, a few steps from the
bed. „Oh bambino, Mama is here. Do not fear anymore. Mama is here." I
nudge the man beside me. Ernesto goes over to his son, sitting down
opposite his wife.

„Hi, son. How are ya doing?" Before Ray can answer his father the door
opens and Dr. Caulfield enters, closing the door behind him. „I’m sorry
Mr. and Mrs. Vecchio, but there is a police officer outside. Detective
Haslett acknowledges that your son is in no state for interrogation now,
but he insists that you speak with him... now." Good timing, Haslett.

„Ernesto, Anita, go out, speak to him. I’ll stay here with your son."
Both leave the room reluctantly. Dr. Caulfield stays with me. I hoped
he’d leave as well but there’s nothing I can do about it. When Ernesto
shuts the door I turn to face the boy. „Do you know who I am, Ray?" He
nods, brushing the tears out of his face. After sniffling a bit he says,
„You are Frankie’s father." I smile at him. „That’s correct, Ray. Your
parents will be back in a minute. Dr. Caulfield, can I speak with Ray
for a while?" The man nods. „Just for a few minutes. Ray is still a
little dizzy due to the medication."

„Thank you, Doctor. You see, I just have to know..." I turn my attention
back to the boy. „Ray, how are you feeling?" For the first time I see
into his eyes. I gasp with astonishment. Although they are a bit clouded
their expressiveness surprises me. They are of a remarkable green colour
and there is something in them that speaks of the life that’s behind
them. It’s like I see through them into his very soul. That reminds me
of something... someone...

„Mr. Zuko? Are you all right?" Dr. Caulfield stands beside me steadying
me with a firm grip on my left arm. „What happened?" I stammer. The
doctor shrugs. „I don’t know. I thought you were going to faint. Are you
feeling dizzy? Perhaps you should sit!" Without releasing my arm he
pulls over a chair and helps me sit. I blink several times, trying to
focus properly. „Thanks, Doctor, I’m OK now." I look over to Ray, who
watches me with those marvellous eyes.

Yes, those eyes made me remember. I remembered myself, so many years
ago. Ray Vecchio’s eyes are so alike my own when I was young, before I
joined the family business. The same colour, that’s obvious, but that is
not the point. The colour is still the same. But there has been a change
in mine. I’ve lost something. Now that I have seen it in Ray’s eyes, I
know what I have lost. I’ve lost my soul.

„Mr. Zuko?" The boy’s calm voice startles me out of my reverie. „Sorry
Ray, I’m OK now. I’d like to know how you’re feeling." He sighs. „I
dunno. Dizzy, I think, a little. And tired. Mr. Zuko? Can you tell me
what I’m doing in a hospital? And why is Mama crying all the time? Am I
sick? I do not feel sick, not really!" Glad to have a reason to break
contact with those eyes I turn to the doctor who comes over now.

„Ray, I’m Dr. Caulfield. You are under shock. Can you remember what
happened?" His voice is calm and the boy responds to this calmness. As
he answers his words come out rather steadily. „I remember... let me
think. Yes, I was with Marco. We played basketball, as we do everyday in
the summer holidays." I cannot hold back any longer. „Do you know where
you were? And were alone with Marco?" Dr. Caulfield places a hand on my
shoulder. „Mr. Zuko, leave that to me. Ray, can you tell me what
happened then?"

The boy furrows his brow. „I cannot remember when and where it was. It
was still light, but I think it was already quite late. Marco said
something about going home. So we weren’t at his place. But I cannot
remember where we were. Maybe it was the school yard." He smiles a
little. „I know it’s forbidden, but Mr. Putrami does not mind. Whenever
we play there he turns a blind eye on it. He’s quite nice sometimes,
despite all his yelling. I think he’s making a show of it." Dr.
Caulfield cannot help to grin at the boy’s words.

„Try again to remember. What happened after Marco said that it’s time to
go home?" Ray falls silent. „There’s... nothing. It’s kinda dark. And it
feels tight... here..." He points at his chest. „I cannot breathe,
cannot speak..." He shudders violently. Dr. Caulfield places a hand on
Ray’s forehead. „Be still, you’re safe now. What is the next thing you
can remember clearly? Don’t try to think about the darkness anymore.
What happened after the darkness?"

Ray clutches the doctor’s hand. „I am not sure. There’s someone lying on
the ground, he’s bleeding in his face... It’s not really a face
though... it’s more like a bloody lump. I think I know him. I know his
eyes... I can still see his eyes... It’s... it’s... oh no, Marco...
MARCOOOOOO!" The boy sits up, shaking violently, screaming at the top of
his voice. Doctor Caulfield tries to keep him down. „Get out of here,
Zuko!" I stand and flee from the horrible screaming. As I leave the room
I run into a nurse. She shoves me out of the way and enters the room.
Last thing I hear before the door closes - apart from the screaming - is
the yell of the doctor: „Get me the syringe. Fast..."

In the next moment Anita Vecchio tries to get to her son. Her husband
holds her back. I help him to restrain the frantic woman. „Let me see
him. I must be with my Raimondo. Let me..." We pull her over to a couple
of chairs and make her sit. Finally she collapses into the arms of
Ernesto, sobbing and crying. I turn to the shocked police officer. „I
think Ray Vecchio finally remembers his deed. You’ll better speak with
Dr. Caulfield when he gets out. And I would recommend that you place a
guard at the door." I make sure that the Vecchios cannot hear me.
Haslett eyes me questioningly. „A guard? He’s just a kid." The screams
of the boy are loud enough to penetrate the closed door. „Detective
Haslett, that kid probably tried to kill his best friend."


I pour myself another drink. It’s already pitch dark outside, but sleep
still escapes me. I wander through my bedroom, but that does not calm
me. I worry about my restlessness. The stage is set, the players and
pawns know what they have to do. Everything goes according to plan. The
victim is unable to speak in favour of the defendant who in turn has
made something like a confession. Ray Vecchio’s words will make Dr.
Caulfield believe that he was the one who attacked Marco Mitrani. By
God, those words would have convinced me if I didn’t know different. I
do not know what twisted memories Ray Vecchio has in his head but
everybody will believe him guilty if Dr. Caulfield testifies in court.
Varese together with Ernesto Vecchio will see to it that the boy will
declare himself guilty, trying to make the best out of the situation by
going for reduced liability.

I have my revenge. Now why should I worry? Why should I feel so...
uncomfortable? Every time I close my eyes I see the eyes of Ray Vecchio.
So like my own, so different from my own. His hold still the life in
them that has left mine a long time ago. Ray is the same age as
Francesco. He could have been my son. What kind of a man have I become
to let a little boy suffer? It would have been easy for me to play down
this whole affair, to get Francesco out of this, without blaming Ray.
But it’s too late now. I have to go till the end. I will bring this boy,
and his family, down.

And I will have to live with it. With my conscience. I sit down on my
bed. After emptying it I place the glass onto the bedside table. The
whiskey warms my stomach, but the feeling does not reach my heart. I
shiver slightly in the cool night air. I have difficulties to sleep with
a closed window. I decide to lie down again. When I reach over to turn
off the light I spot the Bible on the table. I take it into my hands and
leave through the pages. The words of God... They may hold some

I put the book away, turn off the lights. Maybe I should go to church
tomorrow. There’s always the possibility of confession. I could speak to
Father Behan. Maybe I will. I should do so. After all I am about to
destroy a boy’s life...

The end
of this story