Saving poughkeepsie, p.19
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       Saving Poughkeepsie, p.19

           Debra Anastasia

  Beckett shook his head. “You’re the best guy I have. But right now I need you to be Ted’s daughter. I refuse to deliver you to Rodolfo. That’s what he wants.”

  She exhaled. Clearly she knew he was right, though he knew she still wanted to kill the pain out of her heart.

  “I’m going,” he told her.

  She nodded. No mushy embrace or tonguey kisses. She said Come back with her eyes.

  He gave her the best interpretation of a smile he could muster. I will.

  Morales opened his mouth and looked like he might say something, but thought better of it. Beckett nodded at him. “This has to be done. You two have a nice afternoon.”

  Then his ride pulled up, followed by a convoy. Every man under his command was dressed to kill, figuratively and literally. And in addition to these assholes riding with him, others were keeping gates open and guards down at the Vitullo compound. They pulled smoothly away from the curb like a fleet.

  The text messages coordinating their arrival came in steady as a bloodstream. When they arrived at Rodolfo’s New Jersey compound, the gates were open and the cars pulled into the driveway three wide. Beckett and his team exited the cars in one fluid motion, and like a SWAT team, his men took to the doors—thirty in all, each ready to go to war on Beckett’s command.

  He strolled through the house as the assholes who weren’t in on his visit scrambled for cover. “Dolfy! Ol’ Dolfy! Where you keepin’ yourself today? We’re due for another in-person meeting, don’t you think?”

  Beckett jogged up the stairs, his men fanning out around him. Anyone who posed a threat was disabled and tied up. By the time Beckett kicked open Rodolfo’s bedroom suite door, the whole place was on lockdown.

  The old man didn’t even stop spooning soup into his open maw.

  Beckett shook his head before collapsing in the chair across from him. His douchebags closed the door and stood guard outside.

  “Tell me where Ted Hartt is,” he began.

  Rodolfo put down his spoon and used his right hand to help his left hold up the middle finger.

  Beckett stood and grabbed the bowl of soup. He poured the hot liquid in Rodolfo’s lap.

  The man grimaced but made no noise.

  Tough old pecker junkie. “Tell me or I’ll burn this whole fucking house down.”

  Rodolfo narrowed his eyes and his mouth pulled a bit to one side: the bastard’s version of a smirk.

  Beckett produced a huge lighter and strolled over to what looked like a priceless tapestry. He used the dangling tassels like candlewicks.

  The fire crept up the fabric slowly as Beckett returned. “Where is he?”

  Rodolfo shook his head. “Ungrateful.”

  Beckett nodded and took his lighter to the couch near the bookshelves. He lit a few books while Rodolfo hit a buzzer over and over, obviously calling for help. The shelves and the books on it were going pretty good.

  The man’s anger caused him to slur. “This is an act of war, Taylor.”

  “No, this is a truth-seeking mission,” Beckett explained. “But your ass is like a constipated cockroach—hard to get shit out of. I will burn you to death, Rodolfo. You took her father. Why? Did you want her here? Are you in love with her, you mostly dead moth-bait bitch?”

  The two fires began to pop and crackle. He paused to look at his phone. His men reported that Ted Hartt had not been found inside. All hidey holes had been checked, assisted by turncoat assholes.

  “Nothing? Nothing to say?” Beckett used his talk-to-text feature, telling his whole group at once, “Light it up, boys.”

  Rodolfo’s hands shook with fury, and he now spit with his slur. “Burning this house does not make you a winner. This is not even the tip of my iceberg.”

  “Do you know that you’re not dead yet?” Beckett asked. “Do you realize that? I could’ve sliced your throat months ago. I paid my dues, then agreed to leave you be, and you try to take her, then take her father? What on earth would make you that fucking stupid? Actually, I know you’re not stupid, so you must be desperate. What do you need that you can’t buy? What is it? That’s my issue.”

  Rodolfo took a glance over his shoulder. Flames had started to lick the walls and ceiling. Alarms began going off all over the house as the fires Beckett had demanded got rolling.

  “You kill me now and you’ll never know,” the decrepit man said. “Won’t that be fun? You’ll always wonder.”

  Beckett licked his lips. “Yeah, but you’ll be dead, and I’ll have your men. I’ll find out what you know. They’ll talk. I can be very motivating.”

  “You think I didn’t know you were wooing my men? Promising them respect? I know. And I don’t give a fuck because of what Ted Hartt gave me. His gift to me was worth more than this house, your ego, and her golden pussy. It secures my future no matter what happens.” Rodolfo settled in the chair, abandoning his buzzer. “So you’re really too late.”

  The curtains had caught now, framing the old man in fire like the devil he was.

  Beckett was truly stumped. His phone vibrated again. He looked at it to learn one of the assholes had found Primo and was bringing him to the house. And that’s when it hit him. Primo. Mary Ellen. Rodolfo’s whole legacy was crap. He was the end of the line for everything he’d spent his life building.

  “Your son is dead.” Beckett lied to test the waters.

  Rodolfo shrugged, more with his right than his left. “We all die.”

  Beckett’s wheels were spinning now. He could feel the connections just out of his reach. “We do,” he confirmed. “Imagine your whole empire being under my command. It’s really going to bolster my reputation.”

  The floor had started to glow with the heat from the fires.

  “You don’t know jack shit, you pompous little ass.” Rodolfo wrestled himself to an upright position in his chair. “None of this will be yours. I’ll have heirs. Plenty of heirs.”

  “Will you, now?” Beckett got close to Rodolfo. “I’ll find them, and I’ll kill them.”

  “You’ll do no such thing.” Rodolfo started laughing like a madman. “That’s why it’s so perfect. You’ll not touch a hair on their heads. Ever.”

  “Bullshit.” Beckett grabbed the man around his throat.

  “I’m giving Eve the one thing you could never give her. And I like the idea that her father blessed the union. Before he left this earth, he knew he’d be a grandfather, just like he wanted.”

  “You killed him.” Though he’d known it was likely, the news hit Beckett like a brick wall.

  Rodolfo nodded. “She’ll forgive me. You wait and see.”

  “You’re delusional—dementia or some shit. You’re not even making sense.”

  Maybe it was the sight of his belongings going up in flames, maybe it was the desperate need to one-up an opponent—to throw the last blow even if it was only a mental one. But suddenly Rodolfo became quite forthcoming.

  “Her father gave me the chance to use her as breeding stock,” he said, his words choking out between coughs as smoke filled the room. “He preserved her best bits just for me. Our children will be masterpieces: the most skillful, deadly people my business will ever have met.”

  “Eve can’t have children, you bag of assholes.” Beckett began stepping backward.

  “Can’t she? Can’t she? Technology is amazing.” Rodolfo laughed with a spluttering croak. “Run, Taylor. But no matter how fast and how far, know that I will be in your life for as long as you love that woman.”

  Beckett thought about putting a bullet in the old man, but he decided to burn him to death instead. Let him feel the hell of his damnation. He turned and slammed the door behind him.

  None of it made sense. Maybe it was the smoke inhalation. Maybe it was another damn stroke, but as Beckett called his men out to the safety of the driveway to watch the house burn, he had a horrible, horrible feeling that Vitullo had just left him a puzzle he was scared to solve.



When Livia woke on the first morning of the new year, she opened her eyes before flopping around. The bed was full. She could feel Kellan’s foot on her chin, and Emme’s hand was tangled in her hair. Blake smiled—just scruff and white teeth, all the teasing he had for her kept under the veil of early morning silence that had ruled their lives since the kids were born. But she knew he’d whisper it to her later.

  Sleep was a god: trying to get some, convincing the little people in their lives that they wanted it, and mostly losing it.

  White ear buds plugged into Blake’s phone explained the soft, barely there music she could hear. She tried to move her leg, and the dog protested with a snore. She shook her head as the mattress bounced with Blake’s silent laughter. He flipped his phone around and took a picture of her predicament. She stuck her tongue out for the flash.

  Saturdays were Livia’s second favorite, topped only by Friday afternoons when Emme ran off the bus after kindergarten and threw her school bag in the hallway, announcing, “I’m so done with that place,” or something similar. She had so much of Kyle in her. But Christmas break was like a string of Saturdays. Heaven—despite the lack of sleep, of course.

  She finally found a way to slip out of the bed, and the kids and dog readjusted to seep into the space she left behind. Blake snapped a picture of that as well.

  After a freshening up, she came back into the room and changed into comfy pants and a sweatshirt. They had nothing going on today. The pantry was stocked, so she figured they would play in the snow, but other than that…

  Blake caught her eye. Of course he’d watched her change. She winked at him and slipped out the door, intent on starting the laundry. As she pulled out the clothes left in the dryer from last night out, she felt his hands on her hips.

  She wiggled into him, finding him ready for her.

  “Really?” She laughed over her shoulder when he responded by cupping her breasts.

  Blake was all at once hers in the way they knew so well: the look in his eyes when he spun her to face him, the way he touched her face with devotion while his other hand followed a more carnal path. He picked her up and set her on the washing machine.

  She noticed then that the door to the laundry room was closed. Locked. This was a premeditated ambush. He stepped between her legs, forcing her to spread them for him. For a minute he pulled her close—chest to chest, nose to nose—before smiling at her, his white teeth framed by his naughty lips.

  This was the version of her Blake she’d first met. They reconnected with the fire that had drawn them together and still kept them together years later. For him, she would always burn. Sitting in the minivan, driving the kids to the store, just the thought of this Blake made her strong enough to fight an army, destiny, and death. Did anyone know how tremendous he was? It didn’t matter, as long as he knew. She grabbed a handful of his hair, and he slid his hand into her pants.

  “I love you.” She was almost angry. “Do you get it? You. These kids. This life. It is my world.”

  He nodded. She knew he felt the same way, but this Blake didn’t talk, he proved. He found the spot on her body that made her see white and held her until she was desperate for more. Then he reached behind her and turned on the washer.

  Dirty. Filthy for her. He kissed her and added tongue, bit her neck gently while the vibrations from the machine increased.

  She would come for him like this. He pushed up her shirt and pulled down her panties so he could be inside her when she was lost in the ecstasy of it, of him.

  He came right after she did, and she locked him close with her legs, dragging her nails down his back as he bit his lip to stay quiet.

  He kissed the top of her head in between gasps for air. He looked in her eyes before responding, “I get it.”

  When Beckett had finally come home, smelling like smoke after all that had transpired, Eve had been waiting. Morales was gone, most likely sent away.

  She didn’t say anything, but he knew the question she was asking as she stood: Is my father dead?

  “I don’t know,” he told her. “We didn’t find him. The assholes we have didn’t have answers for us…yet.”

  She put her hand over her mouth and wrapped her other arm around her waist.

  “I’d hoped we’d find something, find some evidence, find him,” Beckett told her. “But that wasn’t the case. I’m so sorry.”

  She walked past him and put on her jacket and gloves. His sigh asked her where she was headed without words.

  “I’m going to spend time with the assholes,” she said. “You’ve taken some from Vitullo?” She wouldn’t look at him.

  “I did. And then I burned his house to the ground after it was searched. Rodolfo is dead.”

  With that Eve had left. He’d kept tabs on her through his men, and he knew she was questioning them every which way about her father. She’d taken some long rides to check out a few possible locations for her dad as well. She had nothing to show for her efforts, though Beckett only knew this from text messages, and now her worry and fear had turned to wandering. She hadn’t been home.

  He knew better than to look for her when she didn’t want her to be found, so today, two days after the blaze and at the start of the new year, Beckett focused on assessing their situation from his house/command center. Any man who had claimed loyalty to Rodolfo had been given a choice: come work for Beckett or die. Almost all had decided to stay alive. So now the assholes Beckett had previously converted to his new way of running shit helped explain things to the new guys, and those who’d been working for him covertly now came out in the open.

  Spider, who had been Rodolfo’s main tech/communications guy, had already been transitioning, but he’d seemed particularly relieved to hear his former boss no longer breathed. He was a paranoid son of a bitch, but probably not without reason. Today, as the douchebags helped the new guys settle in to work at various sites around Poughkeepsie, Spider sat in Beckett’s basement.

  “I can pull up the security footage,” he assured his new boss. “I have it in the cloud. But are you sure Nicholas doesn’t have a hard-on for me? He wasn’t there when you torched the place, right?”

  “Nope.” Beckett looked past the man to the screen of the laptop. “But I don’t see how that matters right now.” Sure enough as he watched, Nicholas led Eve’s father, blindfolded, into a room. After fast-forwarding through a depressing number of hours, Nicholas rolled a barrel out. It didn’t take a genius to know who was in there. “Can you get me all footage you have on Nicholas?” Beckett asked. “I’m going to send you someone to help.” He texted Shark to join Spider for a Nicholas-footage expedition. Sevan and Primo, their newest addition to the unhappy family, were to be left alone—to either sit still or die trying to leave. Sevan had just about exhausted his usefulness at this point anyway. And who knew if Primo had any usefulness at all.

  Beckett then turned his attention to the next item on the list and went upstairs, leaving Spider to his work. He now also had a Rodolfo defector with accounting as his specialty. Perhaps he’d be willing to list out all of Rodolfo’s holdings.

  As he returned to the main floor, he wondered again about Eve. Only this time, as if thinking had brought her forth, she opened the front door and came toward him, dressed in leathers and wearing the hardened look he knew she’d perfected in the throes of her previous losses.

  And now he had to hand her another death for sure. That’s all he’d given her in their time together: his love and the death of people she’d loved. He stood in her way. She stopped and stared at him, waiting for an update.

  “I’m sorry.”

  It was the confirmation of what she must have already known. Ted Hartt was dead. She nodded. Dry eyes.

  He wished she would cry, punch him, curse.

  But he knew her. She’d lost control for a moment by the train tracks, and that was it. No matter how much she was bleeding, she would pretend she wasn’t now. He wanted to ask her to give him a hug, to let her know it had been
his intention to fix everything, to bring her father home. His heart crumpled like ash at all he couldn’t do for her.

  “Nicholas did his worst,” she said.

  It wasn’t a question. It sounded more like an answer.

  “We’re married now,” he told her. “I need you to let me help you with this. You’re my wife.”

  Her jaw tensed. “It wasn’t legal.”

  He caught her shoulders as she tried to walk past him.

  “You’re my family.”

  A hint of a softening before the walls were back up. “I wouldn’t say that out loud. That position is cursed. You’ll end up dead.” She gave him such a level stare he had to move aside for her.

  “I could make you stay,” he said to her back.

  “You could certainly try.”

  She took another step back toward the front door. He stood behind her and quietly pointed out what she hadn’t said. “It’s not you that gets your people killed. It’s me.” He opened his palms.

  She didn’t turn around. “I can’t keep you safe. I couldn’t keep Mouse safe. I couldn’t keep David and Anna safe. And I couldn’t keep my father from being tortured and killed by Nicholas.”

  The word tortured clearly tripped her up. Beckett knew her imagination was so much greater than anyone else’s because she’d been on both the receiving and delivering end before. Plus, she’d probably been on Nicholas’s receiving end before. He shuddered thinking of how she’d been brutalized before he traded his freedom—at least temporarily—for hers.

  “Where’s the point in it? In any of it?” She walked the rest of the way to the door and grabbed her helmet.

  He’d rather she killed him than walked out on him. He punched the wall four times in a row. It settled nothing. He needed to flush Nicholas out and get to him. Beckett couldn’t tell Eve her father might have had a secret that would hurt her. He ran after her out the door. She had just started up the bike, helmet in place, when he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her off with one arm, grounding the motorcycle with his other hand.

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