~ * ~
Carl Elias woke slowly. He knew he was dead so he wondered why he was waking at all. His mother’s people did not believe in hell. For them, simply losing God’s favor was the greatest punishment one could receive, Don Moretti’s religion however promised torments and tortured unimaginable. Carl Elias Moretti opened his eyes to face whatever might be waiting for him.
He was on a bed, soft and warm. Candles were lit everywhere. Soft Italian opera playing in the background. The smell of garlic, onions, and peppers simmered in the air. He was dressed casually, the beard was gone.
He stood up, followed the smell to a dining room crowded by a table loaded with family style dishes. Wine was breathing, glasses were filled. More drippy candles flickered in the evening air. Leaving the kitchen with a basket of fresh biscotti was Anthony, whole and healthy. A smile broke the young man’s scarred face. He was perhaps the most beautiful sight Elias had ever seen.
A sob was torn from Carl’s throat. Anthony was there immediately. He held Carl’s face in both hands, kissed each cheek, and soothed with soft words, “Don't worry, Boss. Everything's going to be fine.”