Exposure Level 1 - 9 | iii

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Another day, another murder. And this time, there was nothing Anabella could do to cover it up.

Walking the streets in her nightgown blood covered the woman from head to toe. Like a good neighbor, someone called the police, and the woman was taken in. She had no wounds to explain the blood. She refused to answer any questions, so the next logical thing to do was search her place of residence. What they found there was gruesome.

Anabella changed Carmela Ungaro years ago. Carmela was a budding artist peddling her wares in the art district when Anabella found her. Up until ten years ago she lived with Anabella then, she got married to Lennie Marston—a human. Anabella had her trepidations about the union, but she was not one to impose her views on others. Carmela knew her human family would die one day, but until that day came, she had her husband and their adopted son Benji. Anabella kept the two humans at arm's length. That, however, did not stop Benji from sending his Nana handcrafted cards every year on her birthday and at Christmas.

When Anabella received the call, she broke down. Jayson Vescovi gave her the heads up as soon as he heard the news but by then it was too late. Carmela was in custody, and the bodies of her husband and son were found mauled in their home. Pronounced dead at the scene was Lennie but Benji—he was fighting to stay alive.

Anabella sat in the waiting area of the police station fretting with her pearls. It was only years of practice that kept her sitting upright; her facial features composed. It did not help that everyone who walked past her stared at her instead of looking where they were going. Neither did the fact that she could hear everything around her.

"Did you see what she did to her own son?"

"Have you seen the pictures? What kind of monster would do that?"

"Bet she'll buy her daughter's freedom. People like them never see justice."

"They should make an example of her."

"Anabella."

Her head snapped up when she heard her name. The voices melted into the background. She stood to face her attorney.

"I'm afraid the evidence against Carmela is—overwhelming. She was found covered in the victims' blood. There were no signs of a break in. And she—she won't answer any questions. I honestly do not think she can. The shock of it all," her attorney concluded.

Anabella was crumbling inside. "I see."

"Not to despair. There are ways we can get around all this."

"How? Ungaro is a well-known name. By now, half of Pentorium knows about what happened. There is no way to spin this and cover it up."

"We could go for an insanity plea." He continued to walk through the options they had proceeding with the human justice system.

Anabella took a deep breath pushing down the tears that threatened to come. She focused her mind on her anger. On all the wicked things she intended to do once she got her hands on Passerini. If this fight was not personal for her before, it was now.

"The coroner, thankfully, is one of us. He will make it look like knife wounds. That should eliminate some of the questions on the husband's part. For the boy—"

"They did not find a weapon at the scene," Anabella said. As much as they could minimize the questions the human may have, Benji's worried Anabella more. He would have the memories of the night his mother tried to kill him. That was something that would scar anyone. For his sake, Anabella planned to have those memories taken from him.

"They will find a weapon, my dear. There is nothing else we can do taking this road. I have asked the Captain to allow you a few minutes."

Taking a shaky breath, Anabella followed her lawyer. Her visit with Carmela left more holes in her than anything else could have. It was the longest, most painful ten minutes of her life. She wanted so bad to break her daughter out of that place. Hide her away where no one could find her. Where Carmela could somehow heal from all this. Anabella desperately wanted to take her daughter's pain away. A whispered command from Hanna and Carmela could have a clean slate. In her mind, Anabella reminded herself. But not with the world. Not now. Too much was out there. There was no plugging this leak. The Ungaros would have to face the flood head on.

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