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Episode Twenty-One

"It Never Goes Away"

The day after Shaun Bianco was killed, a small item appeared in the local newspaper.

PHOENIX — Phoenix police shot and killed an unknown suspect last night in the 7300 block of Northcliff Drive in Paradise Valley. According to police, they responded to a burglary alarm and shot the suspect when he raised a handgun. The man had no identification and a preliminary fingerprint check did not produce any results. The investigation is ongoing.

Although the death was forgotten by most after those few words, Tommy Berlini never was able to let it go. Rather, he became unfocused and a shell of himself for years. After trading Prince Sebastian the next season, his team struggled for a playoff spot. But it kept him working and out of the primetime spotlight that he no longer felt comfortable in.

When old friends like Red began to die and he was able to pull himself and the organization back together, he sold the franchise to a young banker for more than $200 million. But thanks to what he had done in order to get so rich and influential, the money was never able to soothe the damage he had done to his soul.

He donated his time to amateur basketball associations, gave millions to charity and eventually embraced whatever he felt might do any bit of good.

Tommy’s work at the Community Church of Phoenix also became an even greater aspect of his life and brother Paul remained his confidant for many years. When Tommy first confided to Paul about what had happened with Frank, Guidano and Uncle Joey, he had also learned how the police were also in on it. Montoya, then Barrick would never let the truth out because it was on their asses too. Besides, brother Paul was the type of religious man who felt that people would pay for their crimes — whether they went to jail or not.

He believed — so strongly that he there “knew” it in the marrow of his bones — that God would punish those who had done wrong. Whether in this life or what follows after, they would be called to answer for their crimes against God.

And when he saw Tommy at the times of his deepest guilt, it reinforced those beliefs. Many a night, or morning, or day, Tommy would suddenly and unexpectedly call, or show up to the church seeking someone to whom he could sob, cry and release all of the sorrow and lament his life had brought him.

The old adage, “time heals all wounds,” was a flimsy line thrown by those who had never truly sinned and might just be the worst expression to describe what happens to those who do things as Tommy Berlini had done. Time only serves to increase the guilt. The sense of responsibility over lives ended before their time: Of Miranda’s 1 million candlepower life force snuffed out by a drunken, broken, man.

For as Tommy murmured over and over as he sat in brother Paul’s office behind a closed door and drawn blinds, “It never goes away, it never goes away, it never goes away...”