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Tragic Tale

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Priti knows it’s a bit unconventional, but it was time. She nervously fingers the small box deep in her coat pocket. Intermission. She’ll do it an intermission.

She and Rafael approach coat check. Damn, she needs to transfer the box. “Hold on a sec.”

“Sure, Cariño,” he touches her back softly and smiles. He’s too close. He might see. She turns away slightly and moves the box to her tiny little black-tie purse. It doesn’t want to fit, but somehow she manages to make it.

After coat check they take their seats and she says to him, “You’re going to love this one.”

“Groundhog Day? I don’t think so.”

She snorts at his immediate dismissal of anything that is comedic. Typical. But she knows he’s going to love it despite himself. Groundhog Day is just the type of comedy he loves to deny he loves. She knows she’ll be catching him singing songs from it in the shower for many days to come.

During intermission, they both check their phones. Before she can even ask him how he’s enjoying the show and look for a place where she can get him alone, he tells her he’s gotta make a call and that he’ll be back.

But he doesn’t return.


“Hey, Sonny.”

“Yeah, Priti?”

“Remember when Rafi and I first met and I called him out for being a dick?”

“Yeah?”

“Please tell me my first impression was wrong.” Her lip trembles.

“Priti, what happened?”

“You know how I was going to . . ?“ she chokes up a bit.  “. . . tonight?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, he just left.”

“He left you?” Sonny sounds incredulous.

“I . . . I don’t know. We were at the theater. He went to go make a call. And now he’s just . . . gone.”

“Hold on, Priti, I’ll be right there.”

To be continued . . .

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“You’re buried in work, Barba,” Sonny chides him again.

“I like to be buried in work. Slow death by paperwork, you know. The American Dream.”

“For some,” Sonny grumbles, looking around at the physical manifestation of the ADA’s burgeoning case load. Books and briefs are everywhere. “You gonna tell her?”

“No,” Rafael says and points a finger at him. “And neither are you.”

“It’s not right, Barba.”

“I don’t care what you think, Detective. This is a private matter.”

“Private from your fiancée?”

“My what?”

Ooops. Sonny backpedals. He keeps thinking of them as already engaged. He rolls his hand as he says, “The love of your life, your sweetheart, your … your … what do you call her?”

“My Cariño,” Rafael says softly, almost wistfully.

“Yeah, her.”

“I can’t, not yet. I need to see how things are going to settle out.”

“What? You’re going to wait until your mother is dead?”

Barba blanches.

“Tell her,” Sonny says firmly.

Rafael doesn’t.


Sonny runs into Dr. Priti Halliwell down at the coroner’s office sometime later. He and his partner are needing information on a recent vic that just washed up on Long Island after being missing for three days. Looking at the body, Sonny’s best guess is that this one had been in the water the for the full three days that she'd been off the grid - an assumption that Dr. Halliwell confirms. She turns to him and asks, “You sure you don’t want to be a doctor instead of a lawyer there, Sonny?”

Amanda just rolls her eyes. “Please, his head is too big already.”

“Lawyering’s just fine. Really,” he answers. “Just spent too many years in homicide, I guess. Sadly, these things get to be  all too familiar.”

Amanda nods her head glumly in agreement. Sonny touches her shoulder softly. “Can you give us a sec?”

“Sure,” she says, stepping out into the hall as she pulls her cell phone out of her pocket. “I’ve got a call to make anyway.”

“How you holding up?” Sonny asks, turning towards Priti. She doesn’t look so good.

“What’s going on with him, Sonny? He still won’t tell me anything. He’s just buried in books . . . and briefs . . . and stress.” She shakes her hands agitatedly. “But I know this isn’t just work.”

“I know. You’re right.”

“So, then what is it?”

“Priti –" He’s caught between a rock and a hard place. His best friend or his . . . Damn, he hates keeping secrets. He holds out his hands to her. “C’mere.”

She falls into his bear hug and he rubs her back soothingly. “You know he loves you though, right?”

She nods. “Yes, but it’s so hard when he won’t tell me what’s bothering him for real. All he says is ‘work,’ ‘I’m under a lot of pressure,’ ‘heavy case load,’ et cetera. It’s killing me.”

“Maybe it’s time to help him focus on something else. Something good . . . His future.”

“What  do you have in mind?” Priti pulls away slightly from the tall, lanky man just in time to catch a devilish glint race through his clear, blue eyes.

To be continued . . .

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Rafael is drunk and getting drunker by the minute. It feels like he just got the call, yet he’d been alone in his office at home for hours. Mami is gone. Gone. The woman who’d risked her hide again and again to protect him from his father's wrath is just . . . gone.

Instead of tears, he pours amber liquid into the tumbler. The alcohol itself will do the crying for him. His dry green eyes watch it drip drip drip from the decanter down into the glass with fascination. It is held aloft by his shaking hand. How fitting. This is how his father would celebrate.

Where’s Priti? She’s been gone for hours. He thinks of how close she’d grown to Sonny and his fingers grip the glass tightly, so tightly he can almost feel it crack. Good thing it’s made of the highest quality lead crystal - otherwise it just might.

Priti had been acting odd ever since that night at the theater -the night he’d gotten that first call. He’d been busy dealing with this stuff on his own. Difficult stuff. And he buried himself with work when he couldn’t face it. Had she gotten bored? Impatient? Found solace in the arms of her so called “best friend”?

His green eyes grow dark. He lets the monster into his heart.

And that’s when he hears them outside.

Laughing. Giggling. And probably holding each other’s hands.

“I told you to try again. You gotta trust me on this.” The annoyingly thick Staten Island accent is audible through his very own door. The door to the home he shares with Priti.

Try what?

His eyes narrow. That’s it. He is done.

The gun that had been merely a contemplation as he mourned for his mother now feels suddenly solid in his hand. Heavy and real. He stands up, pulling it from the desk. He staggers towards the front door, accidentally knocking his tumbler full of tears onto the floor in the process. It doesn’t break. He wrenches the door open on the surprised couple.

“Rafi!” Priti gasps, shocked. She almost drops the box she is holding in her hand when she sees the gun in his.

 “I can’t do this anymore,” Rafael says.

“Do what?” Priti asks desperately, tears pooling in her eyes. “Do what, Rafi? Please talk to me.”

She reaches for him, but he steps away, shaking his finger at her. “Oh no.”

“Put the gun down,” Sonny says with authority. “You don’t want to do this.”

“You’re right, I don’t,” Rafael says and brings the silver barrel to his temple.

Priti gasps.

“I won’t stand here in my own home, being made a fool of by you two!”

Rafael is shaking like a leaf. The gun is wavering from his temple.

“What?” Priti asks softly.

Sonny sees an opening, doesn’t hesitate, and tackles Rafael to the floor in an attempt to disarm him.

But the gun goes off anyway.

The rectangular package slips from Priti’s fingers and hits the ground with a muffled ‘mush’ sound.

The gun is spinning wildly on the ground a full thirty feet from Rafael’s head. He is unharmed.

But now there is crying. He hears crying and notices that Sonny is crouched over . . .

Rafael is up in an instant and joins Sonny at the side of. . . “What did you do?”

Sonny gives him a perplexed look.

“Cariño! Cariño!” Rafael shouts. She’s not responding, she’s not breathing. She’s . . . “Oh my God.”

Sonny calmly reaches over to the red package on the floor. He places it in front of Rafael.

“Look.”

Rafael shakes his head. He’s scared of what’s in that box.

Sonny opens it for him. As if he’s a child.

Inside is a chocolate cupcake with smushed white icing that is now smeared all over the inside of the box. Black and white cupcakes are his favorite kind - Priti knew this. His stomach twists just looking at what is left of it. Before his very eyes, Sonny takes it in his hands and his slender fingers begin pulling it apart.

“No. Stop. What are you –?”

“You need to see this.” Sonny continues pulling all of the cake pieces away from what’s at the center. Dark crumbs fall to the floor and congeal with the blood from Priti’s wounds.

A simple silver band is revealed. Sonny places into Rafael’s palm gravely.

“She just wanted to marry you.”

It fits his left ring finger perfectly.

Rafael hangs his head as the tears finally overwhelm him.

FIN