Broken Queen

Page 41

“Which is a good thing since you’re angry a lot,” I add, moving toward her and tugging on one of her braids.
With a sigh, she looks down, then finally up at me. “I trusted you. I know you can make me do whatever you want, but just remember that I trusted your word. Please don’t let me have been wrong to do that.”
In her eyes is such a raw emotion, an open wound, that I find myself unable to speak. She’s right. I swallow over the lump in my throat and nod. A knock on the door interrupts us, and Bruno pokes his head in.
“We need to go, or we’ll lose our time slot.”
“Yeah, okay,” I say, and Bastian and I both step away. She doesn’t say another word or even look at either of us. Instead, she makes her way out of the room, leaving Bastian and me alone in the penthouse.
“She’ll be all right,” Bastian says.
“I know, and I’m sure this isn’t easy for her.”
“Let’s take a look around. I’ll find Lucien’s office.”
I nod and take the seat behind Geno Russo’s desk.
* * *
Bastian and Ispend two hours in the penthouse. Geno’s office was in pretty decent order, but if he kept anything of importance there, it’s gone now. Lucien’s office, on the other hand, looked like someone bulldozed it. Or, more accurately, shredded every single piece of paper in it and left the mess like confetti all over the floor.
The bedrooms are pretty generic like no one really lived here. I’m sitting on Vittoria’s bed flipping through a book on the nightstand when Bastian walks in.
“Bruno texted. Flight took off without a hitch.”
I close the book, set it aside, and stand. “Good.”
“You got the password to the desktop?”
“Yeah. Brady passed it along. Why?”
Bastian holds up a thumb drive. “Found it taped to the bottom of a drawer in Lucien’s bedroom.”
That gets my attention. I follow Bastian to the study, switch the computer on and type in the password. Very tricky. It’s Vittoria’s birthday. Bastian plugs the thumb drive in. He sits behind the desk to open the single folder on the drive, and I stand behind him and watch as the first photo fills the screen.
It's startling what I see. At first, I think it’s Vittoria. But he clicks to the second image, then the third.
“It’s her mother,” I say.
“Leah Russo.” He clicks to the next one. They’re obviously taken over a period of time because she’s wearing different clothes in different seasons. She is as beautiful as Vittoria and so recognizable. In fact, she could be Vittoria’s slightly older sister. Her hair is exactly like Vittoria’s, a wild mane of blond waves that won’t be tamed, and her eyes are as blue and as sad. They share many similar features with one very noticeable difference. The furrow between the older woman’s eyebrows and the way she seems to be looking over her shoulder in so many of the shots.
But that changes as she enters a hotel lobby with her scarf pulled tight around her neck and her hat low on her forehead. Her hair is hidden in a single thick braid down her back, and she bypasses the lobby to disappear into the elevator. The photographer shot a series of images, catching her second after second as she searches the lobby before the doors close, her expression anxious.
The next set are taken on the same day but possibly by a different photographer stationed elsewhere because she’s wearing the same clothes, hasn’t even pulled her hat off or her scarf down as she enters a hotel room, her smile huge, eyes bright as she is embraced by a tall man with dark hair. It’s obviously not Geno Russo from the build. This man has about thirty pounds on him. Where Geno was lean, this man is as tall but built differently, his arms thick with muscle and, we see in the next image when his shirt comes off, covered in ink.
Bastian clicks through the images of the couple undressing, then in bed.
“Wait. Go back.”
He does, and I peer closer to see the purplish bruises around Leah Russo’s neck and arms. Bastian sees it at the same time I do.
“You think he was beating her? Russo?”
Bastian zooms in as he shakes his head. “Don’t know.”
We get to another image taken in the lobby. Her cheeks are flushed with color, and her eyes contain a sheen that wasn’t there in the previous shots. Leah Russo is clearly on her way out after a long afternoon spent in her lover’s bed. But as the shadows fall over the city, so do they darken her eyes as she leaves the hotel and reenters her world, her life.
“She looks scared,” I say.