Gabi also smiled her thanks but it was wan and a little forced. As she took a forkful of pie she tried and failed to stop her hand from shaking.
"How then? Take him out of the picture another swarms up from the underclass, one hat I might not prove able to distract."
"Sure, but it isn't your job to be the whipping boy," Sympathy in her eyes, Max reached out, lightly touching Gabriella's shaking hand, "And the fact is, you rolling over to play willing victim is not stopping him from hurting other women, Gabi."
Taking a sip of her coffee, Max settled back in her booth, mentally willing Gabriella to see reason.
"I know, but I try to leave, he'll hurt the people I care about." Her voice shook, but the pain was so deep she was no longer sure if she was capable of crying about it. "Are you trying to stop him? Is that what you were doing in the office?"
Max eyed Gabriella for a long moment trying to decide how much was safe to tell her. She didn't think the woman would be repeating any of this to Luca willingly, but he'd think nothing of beating information out of his wife.
Finally she nodded, "I was trying to find out more about his operation. He's not the only one involved in this human trafficking ring. They all need to be stopped."
"And you really think you can stop him? Make it so that he can't hurt anyone any more?"
There was a glimmer of hope in Gabriella's voice.
Max's smile was nothing short of predatory, "Oh, don't you worry about that, Gabi. I know I can."
Gabi took a deep breath before launching on what she had to say next, the few words coming out in a rush.
"Well, then, I guess I'm in!"
"You're in?" Setting down her coffee cup, Max leaned back in her seat, regarding Gabi frankly, "Not that I don't appreciate the offer, girl... But this could get real dangerous. You sure you want in on it?"
"I keep waking up and wondering if today is gonna be the day he kills me. If it's gonna come. I want to go down fighting for something." Gabi said gravely.
"The idea is for Luca and his cadre of sleezeballs to go down, not you, girl..."
Max paused to take a sip of her coffee, considering. She didn't want to put Gabriella in any more danger than she was already in, but she was in a position to help them.
"...Really, the best way you could help take him down is by providing us with information on him and anyone you think might be involved with running this meatmarket."
"Then that's what I'll do...Is there any way I'd be able to reach you?" Gabi asked tentitively.
"Mmhmmm," Max nodded as she set down her cup, "Want me to put my number in your phone?"
Gabi slid a slim, modern, cell, phone across the table and nodded. "Might help."
Taking the phone, Max punched in her number.
"I'll let you decide how to label it..." She remarked as she handed the phone back to Gabriella.
She attempted at a reassuring smile, concern showing in her dark eyes, "Call me anytime, day or night, if you have info, or you're in trouble, or you're scared... Anything - You got it, Gabi?"
Gabriella looked at Max, her eyes swimming with tears for a second, she hadn't had anyone make that offer in so long.
"I...I... Thank you..."
She filed the number under the symbol for pi.