Poughkeepsie, p.18
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       Poughkeepsie, p.18

           Debra Anastasia
 

  Chris raised an eyebrow, emphasizing how unimpressed he was. “Yeah, dude,” he accented the dude. “Why are we all boxed in?”

  Beckett leaned back to take in the lineup of potential-Blake-beating watchers. He took a deep breath, his lungs filling with anger and menace. When Beckett met Chris’s eyes again, Chris’s whole demeanor had changed. He seemed to grow smaller in his seat.

  “Chrissy, Chrissy, Chrissy. Give me your goddamn phone.” All the while Beckett smiled.

  “I’m not that comfortable with that—and how the fuck do you know my name?” Chris reached for the button to raise the window, as if a thin layer of glass could ever protect him from Beckett.

  Beckett almost laughed. Almost. But he hadn’t liked the use of the word fuck in Chris’s response. Beckett waited for the glass to reach about halfway up before he grabbed it and leaned back until it snapped off in his hands. Chris kept his finger on the window button long after it was obvious nothing was left to respond anymore.

  Beckett hated to repeat a request, so he just stared at Chris.

  “What? My phone? Fine. Here.” Chris rotated his phone off his hip clip.

  Beckett scrolled through his messages.

  Chris tried a threat. “My fiancée’s dad is a cop, so I’d be careful what you say to me.”

  Beckett handed the phone back. “Oh, Chrissy, I’m going to be so careful with you. Have no worries.”

  Just then the club door flew open and Merkin came sprinting in Beckett’s direction. Beckett felt his stomach curl in a ball. What the hell?

  He stepped down from Chris’s truck to receive Merkin’s frantic whisper: “Cole’s locked in the men’s room with Kyle. Someone’s screaming.”

  Beckett tossed a look at Eve that told her to finish threatening Chris. She sauntered over to the truck as Beckett took off running, through the doors of the club and straight to the men’s room. He pushed through the crowd of his douchebags who’d formed a ring around the door so the regular crowd couldn’t get a peek at the ruckus.

  He grabbed the nearest minion. “Make that music as loud as you can and clear this club.”

  Beckett reluctantly turned his eyes to the porthole to the men’s room. The tile walls were already sprinkled with blood, and inhumane screams emanated from inside. Beckett put his hands on the metal door. There were only a few feet of visible space before the locker room turned a corner, giving Cole privacy to do his worst. Shit. Shit. Shit.

  “Cole, it’s me! Let me in. For God’s sake, Cole!” Beckett kept his hands flat on the door, wishing he could melt the metal with them.

  The screaming stopped. Beckett tried again, yelling over the music to be heard. His phone buzzed and he checked the text from Eve:

  Police r on their way 2 lock down 4 underage drinking. ETA 6 minutes.

  Beckett gave a silent thanks that his crew monitored the police scanner as he texted Eve back:

  Cl4ear the patrking lot of the purn#ks

  “Cole, you have to let me in. I have to be in there to help.” Beckett banged the door in the quick pattern they’d used in foster care. The code promised it was safe to open the door.

  “Merk, where the hell’s Blake? Where’s Livia?” Beckett yelled.

  “I’m on it, boss.” Merkin headed for the dancefloor.

  Beckett saw movement in the porthole. Cole approached in a red-stained plaid shirt and bloody priest pants. He didn’t look at the window as he clicked the dead bolt open. Beckett opened the door and closed it behind him with a snap of the lock.

  The scene around the corner was so bloody it was almost funny. Almost. And a scared Fairy Princess with her top around her waist sobered him immediately. Her fucking huge eyes stared at Cole. He would have to work quickly.

  Cole’s turned to face her as he whispered, “Kyle, I know you must be really afraid of me right now. I promise I won’t move. Beckett will take you home, okay?”

  Kyle stared blankly at them. Slowly she straightened herself, stood, and walked across the bloody floor to stand in front of Cole. Only then did she speak. “I’m so sorry. Look what I did. Now these men are…are they dead? All because I wanted to punish myself? You must be so ashamed of me.”

  “Can I remove my shirt?” Cole asked.

  Kyle nodded. He unbuttoned his shirt and held it out to Kyle, who didn’t move. Beckett sighed, took the shirt, and put it around Fairy Princess, covering her fantastic rack. He tried to button it up, but Cole’s shirt had the smallest fucking toddler-sized buttons. He wound up getting them all matched with the wrong holes. But at least her tits were hidden now.

  Kyle stepped into Cole’s chest, and he wrapped his arms around her. They fit together like two quotation marks. Beckett didn’t want to rush this sweet nonsense, but the cops would be here any freaking minute. He cleared his throat anxiously.

  “Please leave with Beckett. Are you okay? Did I get here in time?” Cole spoke into the top of Kyle’s head.

  “I’m fine. I’m stupid, but I’m fine. I think I’m going to be sick.” Kyle remained cuddled in Cole’s arms.

  Beckett heard the secret knock again and felt a surge of joy that Blake was safely on the other side. He grabbed Kyle’s arm and led her away from Cole. He had a feeling if Kyle had had even one fewer drink, pulling her away would’ve been a whole lot harder.

  “Wait—come with me, Cole.” She looked confused and guilty.

  Cole returned and took her hand. “Kyle, will you promise me something? It’s all I’ll ever ask of you, please?”

  “Yes. I’ll promise you anything.” Kyle looked into his eyes.

  “Don’t let that girl inside you win. Ever again. Be the real Kyle. Promise me you’ll be you.” Cole looked desperate.

  Kyle shook her head, eyes pleading, but she responded in the affirmative. “I promise. Cole, what’s next?”

  Cole looked around the room sadly. One man was clearly dead and the other moaned softly.

  “My sweet, beautiful Kyle, I have to atone for what I’ve done here. I want you far, far away when they put the cuffs on me.”

  Kyle’s eyes widened, and she struggled valiantly against Beckett’s instant grip on her.

  He popped the lock and passed the bundle of squirming Kyle to Blake. “Bro, take Mouse and get her home. She’ll be puking soon.”

  Livia looked furious and immediately pounded Kyle with high-pitched questions about the blood on Cole’s shirt. Kyle stopped cursing and struggling long enough to tell Livia she was okay. Beckett slammed the men’s room door and locked it again. He had just moments to make this right.

  “Cole, you need to leave. Right now.” Beckett started punching the wall to bruise his hands.

  “I’m taking this, Beckett. I did this. I could have just disabled them. But when I heard her say no I just…” Cole seemed resigned to his fate.

  “They were trying to rape her?” Beckett hit the wall with enough force to hear something crack—either a tile or a knuckle.

  “She said, ‘I do not want this,’ and they were all over her.” Cole glared at the men on the floor.

  Beckett grabbed his brother by his shoulders. “Listen to me. The police are on their way. I know you want to take this and nail it to that giant fucking cross you’re carrying around, but I can’t have you in prison. Who the hell will take care of Blake?”

  Cole looked unmoved.

  “You and I both know I’ve already outlived my shelf life. Do you think I’ll make it for another twenty years while you’re locked up? Who’ll make sure Blake gets what he needs if we’re both gone? It has to be you. Let’s face it, I deserve to be arrested—so many times over. So many times. Look at me.”

  Cole stared at the still-breathing man.

  “How many lives will you save if I’m in prison?” Beckett continued. “Hundreds? Thousands? Do it for the people I haven’t killed yet.”

  Cole turned to look at Beckett. Success. The combination of Blake and the yet-to-be-harmed had done it. Cole let himself be dragged to the door. Mer
kin was waiting.

  “Take my brother and get our group out.” Merkin looked puzzled, but he would never question Beckett.

  Beckett left the door unlocked for the police. No use making it hard. Beckett Taylor gift-wrapped at a murder scene should make them cum in their pants.

  Beckett hung his head and clasped his hands in front of his body. As he waited for the biggest punch of his life, the door creaked open.

  “Do you have to kill people every time you take a piss?” Eve locked the men’s room door behind her.

  God, he loved looking at her. Even with her hair tucked in a baseball hat she was breathtaking.

  “No, they killed themselves after I unleashed my colossal penis. It happens everywhere I go.” Beckett smiled as she assessed the damage.

  “What happened?” Eve felt for a pulse on the dead man.

  Beckett told her without thinking twice. He trusted her implicitly. “Cole caught these two bastards trying to rape Fairy Princess.”

  Emotion flashed in her eyes. Hate.

  “The cops are already here. Right about now…” She paused as they heard a ruckus outside and the music faded to silent. “All the douchebags are starting fights the police will have to break up. Do you trust me, Beckett?”

  Beckett had never heard Eve use his first name before. It made him long for a home, a blanket, and her pussy all at once.

  “Abso-fucking-lutely.”

  Eve moved to the dispenser that emitted rough, brown paper towels. She used one to withdraw a knife from her ankle holster. Beckett made no move to stop her as she walked toward him. She ran a hand through his hair, took the knife, and cut his scalp. She smiled as blood dripped onto his face.

  “Fucking ouch.” Beckett waited to see what she’d do next. Would this be the time she killed him?

  She counted his ribs with her fingertips and found her favorite spot. She slid the knife in sideways and pulled it out. Beckett could only wheeze in response, feeling like all the air was instantly gone from his lungs. She yanked the gold chain off his neck and took the ring off his finger, ripping a good chunk of skin with it. Beckett put it together when she planted the jewelry on the dead man and carefully slid the knife out of its paper towel and into the grip of the corpse.

  Fingerprints. Tricky bitch. She just made that dead fool my attacker.

  He didn’t complain when Eve hit him with a few precisely placed punches. She slid him down the wall and set him on the floor.

  She arranged his legs and arms to her liking and whispered in his ear. “This was self-defense. You’re unarmed. He wanted your gold. I’ll call your lawyer.” She put her hat on his head.

  “What about the witness?” Beckett wheezed.

  “There is no witness.” Eve leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Beckett’s lips.

  Our first fucking kiss.

  Eve easily lifted the soon-to-be-ex witness. Apparently, he was not as bad off as he’d seemed because he was able to stand. Eve pulled another knife from around her ankle and inserted it into the fucker’s lower back, essentially making the knife a handle to the man’s kidney. She could steer him like a horse with a bridle. Eve commanded her hostage to open the door and look calm. She didn’t turn around again, but Beckett knew what she’d done. She’d crossed some line she’d drawn for herself. She’d said his name, kissed him, and saved him.

  She’d done what he couldn’t do for himself.

  19

  Aftermath

  LIVIA DUG HER KEYS out of her purse as Blake and Mouse hustled Kyle to the fire door. As they burst through, Livia braced herself for an alarm, but it remained silent. Four of Beckett’s crew parted to allow them to exit, nodding at Mouse and Blake. They skirted the outside of the parking lot to find Livia’s car, then stuffed Kyle in the backseat with Blake and Mouse on either side while Livia drove them home. As they pulled away, the night was on fire with red and blue lights. Halfway there, Kyle started throwing up. Blake handed her a plastic grocery bag he found on the floorboards to save Livia’s upholstery. Livia pulled into the driveway but wondered aloud whether they should take Kyle straight to the hospital.

  “I’ve been worse than this before,” Kyle assured them between heaves.

  Mouse helped Blake get Kyle upstairs, but returned immediately to the front porch. “I’ll keep an eye on things,” he explained. “I’m supposed to stay. One of the guys will bring a car for me. Can I have Cole’s shirt back though? I’ll need to burn it.”

  Livia nodded as the weird night got weirder.

  Now that Kyle had returned to familiar territory, she lost some of her fight. She allowed Livia to put her in soft clothes, and Blake disappeared with Cole’s shirt. Kyle collapsed in bed as Livia tucked her in.

  Livia stepped into the hallway as Blake came back up the stairs. “I guess I’ll stay in here to make sure she’s doing all right,” Livia said. “Kyle might decide she wants to talk, or worst case, she might choke on her own vomit.”

  Blake nodded and loosened his tie. “I’ll keep you company if you’d like.”

  “I would like.” Livia was thrilled he would stay, even without the promise of being alone in her bedroom.

  Livia scooted past him to change into sweats. She selfishly didn’t offer Blake any new clothes because he looked so magnificent in the loose tie and black pants. She came back to find him sitting on Kyle’s floor with his back against the wall. She slid down to sit next to him, their legs touching.

  “Blake, what do you think happened in there tonight?”

  “I think Cole walked in on someone trying to hurt Kyle, and he handled it.” Blake shrugged.

  “Handled it?” Livia couldn’t imagine how a would-be priest wound up covered in so much blood.

  “Cole has a background that required him to fight like an animal,” Blake said, seeming to choose his words carefully. “His dedication to the Church comes partly from what he endured as a child.”

  They sat holding hands in silence for a long time after that. Periodically Blake would peek over at her and smile.

  Livia felt bold in the darkness of Kyle’s room. “Blake, do you remember the first day your skin was like glass in the sun?”

  Blake was quiet for what seemed like an endless expanse of time.

  “I remember.” He sighed.

  Livia waited. He would tell her if he could. She would listen.

  “You already know my mother was an alcoholic. She would get so frustrated with herself for failing me, but then she would take it out on me. Physically. When I was older, no matter which new housing program we were enrolled in—we always had to change and move—I was fortunate enough to be within walking distance of the Poughkeepsie library. I sort of used it as self-imposed daycare. I’d stop in after school and stay as late as it was open. In the summers, I spent my whole day there. The volunteers and the librarian did much more than organize the stacks.” Cole stroked Livia’s hand in his. “It was the center of the community, and those volunteers saw my need to learn and be mothered. They took it upon themselves to teach me, help me with homework, and give me lessons on the piano in the basement. I was like a stray cat with a dozen houses to call my own.”

  A smile crossed Blake’s face at the memory. “Those ladies shaped me and ingrained my manners deeply,” he continued. “Miss Joan would always say, ‘Manners are everything, Blake. They’re worth more than money.’ But at home, my mother was getting worse. I was getting bigger, and I think that frightened her. She began increasing her episodes with me until there were times I couldn’t go to the library because I didn’t want them to see how I looked with bruises and think less of me.”

  Livia touched Blake’s face, placing a soft kiss on his lips before he continued.

  “When I was twelve, I made the worst mistake of my life. I didn’t use my manners. I didn’t respect my mother. The day my skin became glass, she used something other than her hands on me for the first time. She picked up my belt. She scared me. I was afraid to be hit with the belt. The metal
buckle was headed straight for me.” Blake rubbed his eyes against the memory.

  “I punched her right in the face, Livia. My own mother. She was furious and hurt. I let her use the belt after I realized my mistake. She backed me into our coffee table and I tripped. I fell into the glass liquor cabinet that was her pride and joy. The glass shattered around me, and all the liquor bottles broke. Bits and shards embedded in my skin.” He touched his forearm as if the glass was still there.

  “My mother called the cops and demanded they remove me from the house. I was never sure if she had me removed because she was scared of me or mad that all her alcohol was in puddles mixed with glass and my blood. When the police and paramedics brought me into the sunlight, I saw. I saw the glass in my skin. The sun reveals what I really am, Livia. I hit a woman. My own mother. The glass and liquor seeped in, and I can’t get it out.”

  Livia stayed silent and tried to quiet the screaming in her head. Fuck your mother, Blake! She was a drunk and a coward. You were a child, not a man, and you were only trying to end your own pain. She held tight to Dr. Lavender’s advice. Listen. This was Blake’s plane crash. Livia’s silence invited him to continue.

  “Social Services picked me up from the police station,” he finally said. “The gentleman gave me a cardboard box with a few of my things in it, and he told me my mother had relinquished all her rights. My foster home was nowhere near the library, so my family there was lost as well. I couldn’t have gone back in there anyway. They’d have known my mother gave me up and I hadn’t been a gentleman.

  “My manners were not impeccable,” Blake added, his voice bitter now. “My manners were not worth more than money. I was medicated for my violent tendencies and spent a great deal of time either in a haze or totally numb, but I tried to uphold my library family’s high expectations. A few years later the two little girls in the minivan paid the ultimate price for my cowardice.” He took his hand out of hers and put it in his lap. “Now you know, Livia. All that I’m not.”

  So many people had tried for Blake, but so many had failed. All it takes is one to be the glue. It’s going to be me. Livia moved quietly to straddle him. She put her hands on his scruffy cheeks. “I know all that you are. You almost don’t belong here, your soul’s so pure.” Livia put a hand on his chest. “You’re perfect to me. You’re chivalrous to me. I adore your manners. You can’t disappoint me. It’s not possible.” Livia leaned in and kissed him sweetly. See? See how much I can fix?

 
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