His nostrils flare. “Yes.”
“All the times I snuck off with him… you knew. You knew the whole time.”
She stares, visibly disturbed. “And when I brought Salvatore to the beach house the summer before college…”
More heavy silence.
Delphine’s fingers bunch up into fists at her sides. The pain lives on her face as she regards her father, seemingly working through the revelations.
“You’ve manipulated me all these years,” she says as it sinks in. “You broke Salvatore and I up, didn’t you? You knew the exact things we argued about. The exact weak points to attack. So you did.”
With another sigh, he comes clean. “That’s right. I had to get you away from him. At first, I hoped it would fizzle out on its own, like it did the first time. But you only seemed to be falling more in love with him. After your little birthday getaway at the beach house, I knew I had to do something drastic. My investigation into his club wasn’t enough. You were sticking by him anyway.”
“So you framed him. You had Professor Parsons lie about him destroying his office. You had Monique and Chadwick lie too. Were the men following us even his? How about the guy that tried to mug us?”
Ernest’s expression says enough. Delphine makes a sound of disgust and turns away from him.
“Anything I did was for your benefit, Delphine. I could not let my daughter throw away her future over a mafia gangster like Mancino. I was acting in your best interest—”
Delphine surprises us both with a laugh. It’s an impressive imitation of his cold, dismissive laugh I’ve grown to know so well.
“You know, Dad, Ialmostbelieve you. But then I start thinking about everything else. All the little moments that make so much sense now. All the times you seemed to know so much about what was going on. You’d show up right when I was going against what you wanted, and you’d get me back on track. Not in an obvious way… just a gentle prod or nudge here and there. Or something would happen that miraculously made me follow what you wanted.”
“This is preposterous. I’ve never forced you into doing anything you didn’t want to do.”
“Then why not tell me? Why keep it a secret from me all these years? You really believe that it’s your right to do what you did? To spy on me like I’m some sort of… some sort of toy for you to control!”
“SAFETY!” Delphine yells and then she lets out another loud laugh. “You mean like when I was raped? What happened, Dad? Surely, you must’ve known all this time? You pretended to be so concerned about my apartment and the stress I was under at work when you knew all along!”
He closes his eyes. “That’s not the case, Delphine. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“You expect me to believe you had no idea. Really?”
“Well… I did find out what happened. But you have to believe I was devastated. It made me want to protect you even more. I wanted to find out who the bastard was that got away with it. That’s why I was so worried about your apartment being vandalized.”
I’ve stood on the sidelines enough. I pull out the documents I have rolled up in my back pocket and toss them into Ernest’s lap. The proof I’ve gathered that demonstrates his connections not only to Lena, but the elusive Ivan Volchok. They land scattered on his lap, some sheets floating to the floor.
“Care to explain why your mistress is the daughter of Ivan Volchok? The same man who paid off two guys who were involved in the plot against Delphine?” I ask. “He also happens to belong to the same club you do, DA. You must rub elbows at those events.”
Tears have emerged in Delphine’s gaze once more. She seems determined to keep them from falling. Probably to not let him see her cry, but her hurt is visceral, its own presence in the room.
He glances at the documents and then scowls. “This is much more complex than either of you understand.”
“Did you know your associate Volchok was going to have Delphine attacked? Was it some sort of fucked up bargain you two had struck, DA? Did you discuss it at some Society Club event over drinks? Another attempt of yours to gain control of her?”
“You’re sick in the head if you think I had anything to do with what happened!” He pulls at his restraints, shifting in his chair out of desperation. He looks over at Delphine, who’s moved to the window, and for the first time, real panic sounds in his voice. “Delphine, sweetheart, you have to believe me. I’ve only ever wanted to protect you. I’ve only ever tried to keep you safe. I had no clue that would happen.”
“Then what did you think would?” I ask. “Go ahead, DA. Tell us your version.”
Not that it matters. Your lies have finally caught up with you.
“It’s… it’s complicated.”