Return to poughkeepsie, p.12
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.12

           Debra Anastasia

  “Can you see Jesus yet?” Beckett allowed the man to cough up the burger again. He turned Jared’s head to the side just as he puked up the contents of his stomach. “You’re disgusting. Now tell me again how you’re going to treat Chery and Vere.” Beckett sat back on his haunches a bit, compressing Jared’s legs enough to likely render them numb.

  “Chery’s my queen and the retard is my king. Right, right? Wait, no. I’m Chery’s queen?”

  Beckett looked into the night and exhaled. He began muttering, “I will not kill him. I will not kill him. I will not kill him. Aww, fuck.”

  Beckett took the last layer of burger and fought Jared until he’d inserted it into his windpipe. “I hate the word retard,” he told him. “If that word was a person I’d kill him.”

  Jared’s eyes tried to apologize. Beckett picked up the soda, which had just a few mouthfuls left, and brought the cup to Jared’s nose.

  “You know, they say fast food’s not good for you.”


  Rose-Petal Soap

  EVE GOT OUT OF THE MINIVAN in front of a strangely nondescript building and put her hands up. The armed men frisked her and took both her knife and the gun she’d tucked into the top of her dress. The driver was disarmed as well. Then they were hustled into the entry area, where one of the men handed Mary Ellen a pair of sweatpants. She slipped them on under the driver’s jacket.

  “Follow her,” a guard instructed.

  Eve nodded, and she and the driver trailed after Mary Ellen. As they passed through a few different sets of doors, it became apparent that Mary Ellen’s father owned the whole building and he was using it as his residence. This man had the kind of money that ruled small countries.

  “Mary Ellen! Is this you? You did this?” The man headed at them wore a velvet robe, monogrammed with PV. He pointed at an enormous television where a picture of the building that had hosted Mary Ellen’s gathering filled the screen. The place was a wreck.

  “Primo, listen, it’s been a long night. I don’t want to talk about it.” Mary Ellen tried to brush past her brother.

  Eve stood back and surveyed the scene. Primo was an incomplete kind of handsome. If his father had put in just three more thrusts, Primo would have been movie-star gorgeous. But instead he was just shy of getting laid like a rock star.

  “Father is going to have another stroke when he finds out about this. What the hell were you trying to do? What did you think would happen?” Primo twirled and sat in an expensive, high-backed chair. He spread his legs enough for Eve to shift her gaze away. Dude did not have pants on.

  “He won’t find out about it, Primo. Why would you intentionally upset him that way? And anyway, who’s to say this wasn’t part of my plan? Please. I had an exit strategy. January and Leon are professionals, and I knew they’d get me out. Everything went according to design.” Mary Ellen went to the bar in the luxurious living room and poured a glass of wine.

  Eve kept her face neutral, not letting on that Mary Ellen had been in a giant clusterfuck of crazy and barely gotten out by the skin of her tits.

  “January? She looks like one of your showgirls. And I know Leon’s a good driver, but did you see the mess? That’s half of midtown shut down, and dad’s helicopter is ashes, twatness. What if they track that back to us? How many of your guys got arrested?” Primo stood and stomped over to grab her wine glass.

  Panic ran across Mary Ellen’s face briefly, but she dug deep and recovered. “Since when do you care at all what I do, Primo? Since when do you care about anyone but yourself? While Daddy is ill, someone needs to be thinking about the future of our business.”

  “Is that what you think you’re doing?” he countered. Mary Ellen gave him a curt nod and he opened his mouth to speak again, but then abruptly closed it. He appeared to think for a moment. “You know what? You want a whack at running dad’s business? Have at it. Go nuts. We all know who will carry on his legacy. That’d be me. His son.”

  Having said his piece, Primo turned and looked Eve up and down like she might be a prospect for his evening.

  “I didn’t ask for your opinion,” Mary Ellen announced. “And I will not allow you to upset our father’s recovery by sharing your speculations. Just keep them to yourself and try not to piss Daddy’s money away in the casinos.” With that, she turned on her heel and waved everyone out of the room before stomping upstairs.

  Eve nodded and followed Leon down the hall to the guest quarters. They walked into the suite—two bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom and shared living room—and Leon closed the door.

  “You’re a decent driver.” He took his tie off.

  Eve glanced around the room, seeing plenty of places where audio and video equipment could be hidden. “Back at you.”

  Mary Ellen knocked on the door, still in her mismatched outfit. “I suggest you lock the door if you don’t want a visit from Primo later,” she told Eve. “I’ll expect to speak with you again first thing in the morning.”

  Eve just waited. Mary Ellen was still putting on an act. Obviously she knew the place was wired.

  “Thank you.” Eve would have said, “fuck you” with the same amount of venom. “But I’m leaving. Have one of those guys show me out. I have places to go. And I want my knife.”

  Mary Ellen shook her head. “No, I want you to stay.”

  “I’ve got some loose ends of your plan to tie up. I want to make sure none of your people turn on you.” Eve stepped around Mary Ellen and opened the door.

  The woman whispered, now that Eve was so close. “I don’t trust you.”

  Eve turned and looked her full in the face. “That’s the smartest thing you’ve said all night.”

  As she anticipated, she was met in the hallway by guards. “Just get me to street level.”

  “No, miss. We’re instructed to get you far from here before letting you out.” The two burly men escorted her to a much larger garage where an extremely convincing replica of a city cab waited with the door open, its windows treated with dark tinting. She slid in and one of the guards handed her back her knife before he closed the door. The driver looked at her in the rearview mirror.

  “Can you take me to Poughkeepsie?” Eve closed her eyes and massaged her temples.

  Mary Ellen stood in her room at her father’s house. She’d waited until this very moment to let the panic flow through her. She sank to the floor and almost convulsed with shivers as she ran through the close calls she’d endured tonight.

  It was a good half hour before she got up off the floor and went into her bathroom to shower off the fear and adrenaline. The water was perfect, but as she lathered up with rose-petal soap, memories assaulted her. It had been months since she spent time in this house, and the last time she was here it was with him. Sevan: the love of her life and the man who’d torn her heart to shreds. It felt like just moments ago she’d been meeting him for dinner.

  It always took her forever to decide what to wear when she knew she’d be seeing him. That night she’d settled on a pale purple pencil skirt. She’d tried on quite a few, but that one seemed to flatter her eyes the best. The maître d’ nodded and welcomed her warmly.

  She touched his arm as he moved to place her menu on a center table, where she normally preferred to sit. “I’m expecting company.” She discreetly pointed instead to a secluded table in the corner.

  He nodded and made the change, holding out her chair for her. She thanked him demurely.

  Sevan was late. With any other man Mary Ellen would have left—and possibly asked Daddy to have the gentleman disciplined for her disappointment. But Sevan was different, so different he sounded every single alarm in her head. And his dark eyes and quick grin sounded all the alarms she had below the waist.

  She forced herself not to look around the restaurant, searching for him. She didn’t want to appear eager. She slid her phone out of her purse and checked for texts. She had none. Sevan had turned her into a sniveling schoolgirl.

  Her view of her phone
was obscured by a single white rose. She recognized his strong forearm and inhaled her relief. The rose smelled wonderful. She felt him press his lips to her cheek, and she smiled.

  “Mary Ellen.” His voice was perfection, so deep and inviting. He stepped around her and winked.

  “Mr. Harmon.” She took the rose from him and nodded.

  “So formal. What have I done?” He simultaneously took his seat and control of the table, signaling the waiter. “Two glasses of Dom Perignon and an order of calamari.” He turned his attention back to her. “Were you afraid I’d forgotten? That I found myself in the arms of another? Surely a woman as lovely as you would be so very confident.”

  He bit his lip as he looked at her, as if he were admiring art. It was a practiced move, and she saw right through him, but found herself blushing just the same.

  After the champagne was poured, Mary Ellen held up her glass for his toast.

  “To your beauty.”

  She tapped her glass to his, locking eyes.

  Her father had warned her against falling in love. Her brother said he’d heard horrible things about Sevan. But Primo was always saying things like that, looking for ways to make her unhappy. Sevan couldn’t be all that different from her family, she told herself. After all, he’d come into her life through a business deal.

  Based in South America, Sevan had approached her father with a request for weapons to be used by his personnel working in the United States. “Protection,” he explained simply. And he needed a professional like Rodolfo Vitullo because his employees had passports from every country under the sun. This made things…complicated, and he needed help…streamlining the process of getting them outfitted. Mary Ellen recalled how her father’s eyes had narrowed for a moment as he listened to Sevan’s request. But rather than ask any questions, he just nodded and escorted the man into another room, leaving her behind. As always.

  Still, Mary Ellen found ways to cross Sevan’s path whenever she could. She arranged to bump into him after his meetings with Daddy. Sevan’s ardor was intense, and she fell hard for every bit of it. He was ambitious. She knew that from how hard he worked at courting her.

  Sevan was tall enough that she’d had to crane her neck to look at him when they walked together, and he was young enough to know all the latest fashions and unheard of bands. He made her feel alive and naughty. They often walked the streets of Manhattan after their dinners with Sevan’s arm thrown around her shoulders, like the lovers they were. Like young lovers.

  She didn’t miss his appreciative glances at other women. He sometimes turned his head to catch a particularly enchanting receding figure. He would notice her attention and always have a quick compliment.

  “She has nothing on you, baby. Nothing on you.” He would brush his lips across her forehead.

  She knew he’d marked her as his. He took her to event after event, paraded her around. Her father took notice and offered warnings. Her brother ignored her.

  But with Sevan, her heart raced. In his bed he pleased her more than she’d known was possible. Just thinking about the orgasms she’d been treated to at his hands was distracting. It made her angry with the other lovers in her life, those who hadn’t known how her body worked. But he knew. How much she needed, how deep it had to be, the praise, the dirty talk—everything about him worked for her. Her love now mixed so completely with lust she knew she’d never tell them apart.

  As the months went by, they’d grown closer, and Sevan began to talk with her—as if she understood things, as if she were an equal—in a way her father and Primo rarely ever did. She learned that Sevan’s business was importing pharmaceuticals, as he liked to call it. He was always so suave and polite. But he couldn’t help but brag a bit as he explained how he’d developed an elaborate system over the years to filter his products into NYC without a big base operation set up there. Poughkeepsie was the gem of his route because it was perfectly situated: just far enough from the city to stay out of the spotlight, but connected to it by any form of transit you might want. “And,” he liked to say, “there are just enough lowlifes there to keep the cops busy with other things.”

  As they became more entwined, Mary Ellen had confided in Sevan, the only one who seemed to understand her at all. She’d told him her deepest fears about being left out of the business as her father grew older, how he sometimes favored Primo even though he had no head for business at all. Sevan was always sympathetic, always encouraging. He forced her to realize her father’s confidence in her—the way he allowed her to introduce herself to clients. Sevan urged her to build on that, to become more of a presence in the office, demand to be a part of her father’s business meetings.

  But even as he reassured her, there were signs: missed dates, unexplained absences. There were steps she knew she should take with Sevan, ways she needed to protect herself. But whenever she broached the topic, he would melt her with his delicious lips and strong hands. Still, she’d refused to tell him how much she loved him. And he never uttered anything but praise that was one size fits all.

  The day Daddy had his stroke, Mary Ellen had felt she’d had one as well. But at the hospital, just after hearing the dire news, Sevan had appeared. He’d kept a comforting hand at her lower back and asked questions she’d not had the forethought to ask. He brought her water. Lover’s actions, all of them. But at the time, they’d barely registered.

  Her concern for her father was more than just his health. His empire was a huge, towering nightmare, and she could not imagine what would happen if…Not that Daddy wouldn’t recover—of course he would—but decisive action needed to be taken. It was then that Sevan had planted the seed: She should take this opportunity to make some adjustments so she couldn’t be cut out of the business any longer. Otherwise Primo would take over—maybe sooner rather than later—and she’d be out forever. Primo wasn’t about to share with her, to let her have a say in anything. He’d always hated her.

  Empowered by Sevan, Mary Ellen’s mind had begun to turn. Along with keeping the company in line, her show of strength would surely impress Rodolfo once he’d recovered enough to understand her reasoning. And either way, he’d have no choice. If she held access to the money, she’d have to be part of the decision-making from now on. So, with Sevan’s guidance, she’d managed to move several chunks of money into new accounts.

  When the last transaction cleared and Mary Ellen had assured Sevan she could not access any more of her father’s fortune, her lover had stopped coming by, stopped checking on her and her father. She refused for a week to even consider that Sevan had betrayed her. But when she finally rang the bank to check on the accounts, they all had the same horrible number as a balance: zero. Nothing. He’d taken every last dime.

  It hurt so deeply to know that her trust had been plundered, and her father’s money as well, but it got worse. So much worse. When Sevan finally contacted her, instead of an apology, his lips spilled over with blackmail demands. He wanted her to do whatever he said, get him whatever he wanted, or once Rodolfo recovered, he’d tell him she tried to make a move on the company while he was critically ill. And the paperwork would support his story. Even worse, Primo would be beside himself, preening and gloating over her demise.

  But in that moment, something inside her shifted and Mary Ellen knew she would never cave to Sevan’s threats. She cried—sure, she cried—but her tears fell on words she wrote: a master plan to ruin Sevan’s business and get her father’s money back. And she would do it all before Rodolfo returned to work.

  She stepped back, out of the overhead stream for a moment, and forced her hand to unclench its death grip on the handheld sprayer. She’d been busy in the ensuing days, snooping through Daddy’s lists of contacts and plying all her charms and skills to serve her purposes. And tonight should have gone perfectly, would have gone perfectly, but Sevan had tainted it. She’d recognized two of the dead bodies in the bathroom air vent. Sevan’s bodyguards had stood like two gargoyles outside their boudoir so many
times during their affair, their faces were almost as familiar as his.

  Of course there were ways to fix this, and she had gained some valuable information this evening. But as she stepped out of the shower, all she could remember was the time Sevan had taken her on the bed she was about to lay in alone.


  Dancing Dongs

  BECKETT GOT EVERYTHING ON THE LIST, then went to Chery’s room and got her some damn clothes too. And makeup. She’d want to cover her shiner the way she always did after nights like this.

  On his way out, he looked at Jared’s limp body on the porch. The fuck knuckle was still alive…well, at least last time he’d checked he was. Beckett tossed the stuff in his car and went back just to make sure he didn’t have to smack him back to life. The woman-beater was boneless. Beckett took Jared’s rifle, now unloaded, and set it in his backseat before finally checking that the shit was still breathing. He was. Beckett pinched him in the armpit until the man came to. When Jared’s eyes finally focused, fear shaped his whole expression.

  “I didn’t kill you,” Beckett said. “Remember that. I made that choice tonight. Now say thank you, you filthy motherfucker. Before I change my mind.”

  Jared burped and seemed to try to make sense of things. “What? Yeah. You’re welcome? No. Thank you?”

  Beckett stood and walked back to his car. As he pulled out, he smiled and waved at the jackass. On the ride home he congratulated himself on not killing the sperm bucket, and he took a quick detour to launch the wiped-down rifle into a crappy, muddy lake. Then he mentally reviewed the injuries he’d inflicted on Jared. He might have bruising on his arms where the rifle had pinned him down, but for the most part Beckett had been a clean convincer. Not quite as good as Eve, but not bad.

  A few minutes later he pulled into his driveway and heard G barking his little ass off. He hoped Vere wasn’t spooked. After disabling the alarm from his keychain, Beckett walked in with their bags of things.


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