HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt
“Sir, I believe I know who killed your daughter,” Tessa said, emotions shaking her voice. Words raked the back of her throat. “But before I can tell you who did it, I need you to promise me, you’ll allow the bank to return the money back to the farmers.”
The mayor shot to his feet, fists clenched to his side. “How dare you come into my house, dangling a carrot in front of me and ask such nonsense! My daughter didn’t steal anything from anyone! Prove it, if you can.” He pointed a finger at Mr. Popescu and said, “You, and the rest of you farmers, make my life miserable with this accusation. I’m sick of all of you!”
Tessa reached into her purse and pulled out two pieces of paper and handed them to the mayor. He hesitated to take them.
“You ask for proof of her illegal activity. These are copies of contracts for the same person, only different amounts. Mr. Popescu here can confirm for you receiving a certain amount from me and handing part of it to your daughter while she notarized the contract.”
The farmer nodded.
The mayor took the documents, looked them over then said, “How do I know this is not fabricated by you, a denigrating conspiracy against my daughter?”
Tessa sat composed, her shoulders straight, her hands steady. A peaceful feeling came over her when she spoke with a candid voice, “What would I gain lying to you, Sir? You have here two people telling you the truth. If you’ll listen to the other farmers you’ll hear the same story. There’s a lot of money in your daughter’s account that belongs to others and not to her.”
The mayor seemed to ponder her words, then slumped on the sofa, next to his wife. He rested his elbows on his knees and looked sideways at his wife, then back at Tessa. He pushed a hand through his completely white hair, a pained look on his face.
“Suppose I agree to this. How do I know how much money goes to whom?”
“We’ll work together, calling in each farmer and ask how much money they gave away. You’ll have to trust them,” Tessa said.
“And how do I know you’re telling me the truth about my daughter’s killer?”
Tessa pulled out of her purse a brown envelope and placed its content on the coffee table in front of the mayor.
“Because the same person who did this to me told me he gave your daughter the same lesson. Only I was lucky and survived. This is me in the intensive care unit hours after the attack. A friend found me, otherwise I’d probably not be here.”
The mayor’s mouth fell agape. He lifted each photo with shaky hands, then placed them back down. He looked at Tessa, then back at the photos. His wife stopped rocking and covered her mouth with both hands, her head shaking in denial.
“My baby, my poor baby, what she had to go through,” she said against her palms. Her husband embraced her, caressing her wrinkled cheek.
“Did he get caught?” the mayor asked, his face flushed with fury.
“He had an accident. Unfortunately he didn’t survive to face his trial.” Tessa gathered the photos, then stood. “I’m sorry I put you through this, Sir. I wish I didn’t have to show you the photos. Nor did I intend to add more suffering to your family. But I owed this to myself and to your daughter, who became the victim of the same person. It’s time to do the right thing.”
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