FORTY-EIGHT

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Skipped chapter forty-seven? It was marked PRIVATE. Please refer to Fine Facts at the front of this book for further instructions.

They spent two months sequestered at the Nest, working on the cases with the federal prosecutors. Ultimately, it had come down to Mark's and Bruce's testimony and the mountain of documents they had each uncovered. The paper trails had been laid out with the utmost care so that the defense lawyers could not poke holes at the truth. They were only required to make appearances at Augustus's and Gus's trials. The documentation and other proof in these cases would filter down and be used as evidence for the rest of the charged individuals.

It had been hard for Mark to see Augustus in leg irons and shackles each day. The man looked depressed, frail, and seemed to have aged ten years overnight. He kept his head down, not making eye contact with anyone in the room.

Gus had been a different story. There was an angry and arrogant air about him. He attempted to deflect the blame in his defense by claiming Enzo had bought the weapons from Morris without his knowledge. The videotaped meeting Paul had uncovered during his first few days at the Nest had done its job in setting that story straight.

It hadn't taken long for the jury to find Gus guilty. With Augustus, the deliberations had gone on for four days, but the result had been the same. In Mark's opinion, the latter verdict had been more about the man's long standing reputation, years of living luxuriously by illegal means, and less about evidence linking him to the crime itself. But a father should know what his son is up to right under his very nose, right? Too bad the jurors hadn't known Gus and what he was truly capable of.

Mark was standing in the bullpen of the Nest when word came in. A shot fired from the rooftop of a building across the street from the courthouse had hit Augustus in the chest as he was being moved to the federal prison. The hit looked professional with no evidence of the sniper found.

Augustus was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital.

Mark bowed his head when he heard. Those twelve people who had decided Augustus's fate would never know what an intelligent man he had been, or what he had given back to the community. They were not interested in the good inside of what they considered to be a bad man.

Someone was kind enough to wheel over a chair, and he sat to watch the news coverage on the death of the man who was the closest thing he had ever known to a father, at least a caring one. Within minutes a hand slid into his—in all likelihood that same someone had gone upstairs to get her. They didn't speak, there was nothing to say. And as he watched part of his existence unraveling before him, he held on tight to that lifeline. She was his future, his strength. It was time to let go of his past.

"My father was an abusive drunk," he muttered.

Virginia's head whipped around, her face expectant.

One of his earliest memories was of his father yelling across the dinner table at his mother before picking up his plate and hurling it at her head. "I don't remember a time when he wasn't angry. Work, family, money, there was always something that would set him off. He took it out on my mother most of the time."

As her eyes widened, he closed his. "Eventually, it sent her into a massive depression. Most days she would stay in her room. Of course, it only angered him further to come home to no dinner and the house a mess. That's when the beatings started."

"My God," she breathed.

"Julia couldn't take it. When she was sixteen, she moved out to live with the first man who would have her."

"She left you with that monster?"

He swiped a hand down his face. "It's good that she got away. Who knows what would have happened to her if she'd stayed. She begged me to come too, but I couldn't leave my mother like that." Mark shuddered with the memories, day after day of living in fear of his father's moods.

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