Return to poughkeepsie, p.21
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.21

           Debra Anastasia

  “So tell me, January. What do you think of my plans?” Mary Ellen waved her fingers and blew on the nails.

  “Which ones? Going to a safe house? That sounds like a good idea. Throwing a party? I think you just want to jerk yourself off to some sort of Cinderella fetish you have. It’s stupid and will probably get you killed, based on the last meeting you put on like an asshole. Or the Database of Moron-it-tude? Never write crap down. That’s all the feds need to nail your ass to the wall.” Eve crossed her arms.

  Mary Ellen’s face went from deadly to that hollow smile again in an instant. “You know what? You’re going to bring Ryan tonight. I’ll secure you an invitation. You might as well stay here, and I’ll dress you. Then you can travel over with the girls. Have him meet you there. It’s on Long Island.”

  Eve sighed. “Really? You think bringing a cop to one of your gatherings is a good idea?”

  Mary Ellen looked at her sharply. “I think my party will be the perfect place for a dirty cop.”

  “So what’s this package? Is it anything you’ll need me to protect your ass from?” Eve knew this pushed the boundary, but she had to have something.

  “No, I’m quite capable of knowing what I’m doing. She’s in no shape to hurt anyone.” Mary Ellen made her lips into a convincing duck face. “You can just enjoy being a guest this evening.”

  “You murdered her?” Eve used everything she had to stay neutral, bored.

  “I really don’t see how the matter is any of your business. Should I be concerned that you’re asking so many questions?” She peered at Eve for a moment, eyes wide.

  “I just like to know what the hell’s going on.” Eve sighed. “Things have gotten out of hand in the past.” She waited for a moment, praying for a response. None came. “Whatever. I need to go tell Ryan about this party thing. I’ll come back after that.” Eve stood. She needed to be out looking for Livia.

  “Also, tell your boyfriend to bring the information I requested in exchange for the money I paid him.” Mary Ellen followed Eve to the door.

  “Wouldn’t that break my cover? Bad enough I have to think of a reason we’re going to this stupid thing.” This woman was literally insane.

  “True. Just testing you. No worries. You can be my brother Primo’s niece for the evening. It’s likely the closest he’ll ever get. This will be a big night for him.” She cackled to herself. “Anyway, I’ll find another way to get my hands on Ryan’s information. And since you’re so interested in details, you should know he’s bringing me anything and everything the police have on Beckett Taylor.” Mary Ellen paused for a split-second, as if gauging Eve’s response. Then she opened the ballroom door and waved a guard over.

  Eve did her best to compose herself before she turned and looked down at the woman. “And why do you want information on a dead man?”

  Mary Ellen snapped in Eve’s face. “Because sometimes dead people aren’t dead enough until you kill everyone who knew them. You’re a smart girl. I would have thought you’d see that coming.”

  Eve nodded. “You’re badass all right.”

  “Enough of your sarcasm.” Mary Ellen instructed her man to show January out and clicked her way back up the winding staircase.

  As she left the mansion, Eve pulled out her phone and began looking for more information on Livia. She jumped a mile when someone tapped her shoulder.

  “Yes?” She looked up to see Shark standing in front of her.

  “The lady of the house requests that you call your boyfriend from here and remain. Actually, she demands it.” Shark allowed no emotion or recognition into his eyes. He just waited with his arms crossed.

  Eve dialed Ryan’s number. When he answered, he sounded distracted.

  “Hey. Remember my super-important uncle? He’s having a party at his house tonight, and I just found out we need to attend.”

  Ryan was silent for a few moments. “Really?”

  “Really. Drop everything tonight and come to Long Island with me or we’re breaking up. Wear a tux.”

  “Where is it?” she mouthed to Shark who retrieved an invitation from his jacket and held it out to her. She rattled off the address and time. “I’ll meet you there.” Eve dropped her phone and stomped on it.

  “That was dramatic.” Shark shook his head at the carnage.

  “I do this to a lot of phones.” She kicked it with the toe of her shoe and located the SIM card. She crushed that with her heel. “Because, let me guess, she wanted it taken from me?”

  Shark gave her a nod and motioned her back toward the mansion. Eve closed her eyes. Tonight she could tell Ryan about the latest update and maybe get his people on Mary Ellen’s computer. She had a sinking feeling the bitch was on to her. She just hoped she lived long enough to help Livia.



  BECKETT HAD THE WHOLE SITUATION on lockdown within fifteen minutes. Chery was with him at the store, and he explained as loosely as he could that he had a “family emergency” and had to go home immediately. Vere was safe at her day program for the next several hours, and Gandhi snored in the corner. After their brief discussion, Beckett went to the back and called two of his ex-employees—they were into shady shit now, but they were loyal.

  They agreed to live at Beckett’s house and stay alert while he was away. Gandhi was to stay there with Chery and Vere. When the dog woke up and realized Beckett was gone, there would be hell to pay, but he was sure Vere would keep him settled. One more phone call and Chaos was on his way down from Poughkeepsie to provide backup. The dude was more than likely on his way back to jail anyway, so leaving the state was right up his fucking alley.

  Beckett gassed up the Challenger and was on his way. Whitebread. If he didn’t have a soft spot for Livia…well, damn it, that didn’t matter because he did. She loved him even though she shouldn’t, believed good things about his heart when his hands had been murderous bastards. Coming back from the dead and arriving in Poughkeepsie was not what he’d had planned for this day, but hearing Blake’s voice had blown his mind. And he was flying blind. He had no idea who was pulling the strings in Poughkeepsie now.

  On the way up, in the fast lane the whole time, he made phone calls. He tracked down as many of his old douchebags as he could and pumped them for information. He called Chaos again, and while they both went in different directions on the same road, he asked him questions. Chaos confirmed there was trouble in the air, but he didn’t know who was causing it. He seemed genuinely surprised to learn Beckett wasn’t involved.

  Whatever these people wanted, taking Whitebread was uncalled for, and in Beckett’s opinion it escalated the Poughkeepsie situation considerably. She was a cop’s daughter. Snatching her was almost an amateur move—or a batshit crazy one. But if the goal was to get him home, it was fucking working.

  As stupid as he was driving, he was shocked he hadn’t been pulled over, but three hours and forty-eight minutes later, he took the exit for Poughkeepsie without police involvement. He drove straight to John McHugh’s old house, Blake and Livia’s now. He refused to think of his brother alone with his kids, because he would find her.

  Beckett parked the car as the sun began packing up for the day. A uniformed cop instantly materialized and opened his car door as another approached from the other side.

  “I’m here to see McHugh and my brother,” Beckett explained as he stepped out. “And yes, you should arrest me. But let me talk to the men in that house first.”

  Blake threw open the front door and jogged down the steps to grab his brother in a desperate hug.

  “I’m here. I’ll get her. I promise.” Beckett held Blake’s shoulders. He didn’t like how unsettled Blake’s eyes were. “You know I’ll find her.”

  “I had to call you. I just had to.” Blake held out his arm for the brothers’ shake. Cole stepped into the circle and held his arm out as well.

  Beckett was solemn about the greeting, pounding Cole on the back. “I’ll find her.”

  Cole and
Blake thanked the officers and led Beckett toward the house. John McHugh now stood at the door.

  “Hey, can I talk to your father-in-law alone for a minute?” Beckett didn’t drop his eyes from John’s intense stare.

  Blake looked reluctant, but disappeared into the living room. Cole followed.

  McHugh said nothing, so Beckett gave him a quick summary. “She’s been taken by some sort of crime organization. I know of no motive yet. I’ve been in touch with every douchebag I still have here, and I know where I need to go to get more information.”

  John shook his head. “I’m not putting my daughter’s fate in your hands.”

  Beckett sighed. “Listen, you want to put me in jail, yes? To get Livia from these people alive will take a lot of lawlessness—things I’m more than willing to do to get your girl back in this house where she fucking belongs.” McHugh still said nothing, but he didn’t slam the door, so Beckett kept talking. “You do your thing. You get the cops where they need to be, and I will keep you posted. You’ll know everything I do. But I can’t do jack shit if your boys are going to snap me up. After I have her, fine. But right now, Blake needs me. This is something I can do.” He waited, praying the father part of McHugh would buy in to his plan.

  “If she dies I can’t promise I won’t kill you.”

  McHugh was out of his mind too, Beckett realized. His eyes reminded him of Blake’s when he looked closely. “As long as she’s okay? I don’t give a fuck what happens to me. That’s a promise.”

  McHugh rubbed his forehead. “Fine. Fine. Last time I trusted you, you ran out on me.” He gave him a look of disgust. “I’ve got a man in there. He was invited to some sort of party tonight with individuals who might be involved. That might be a place to start. I’ve got to get down to the station. They’re getting some information on the blood found at the scene.”

  He pushed past Beckett and into the yard. As Beckett went in to talk to his brothers he could hear McHugh passing on the command that Beckett was to be left alone. That was one miracle. Not having the cops after his ass would make this so much easier. Well, not that it was going to be easy. Chances were he was going to have to kill a lot of people to get Whitebread home.

  He came into the living room and found Blake holding a small bundle. He knew he couldn’t stay long, but he just wanted a peek at his namesake.

  “I’m coming,” Blake declared immediately. “We’ll do this together.”

  Beckett came close enough to see the baby. He was adorable and very asleep.

  From the stairs, Emme gave him the once-over. “You’re new. My mommy is missing. Are you helping her come home?” She walked up to Beckett without fear.

  He squatted down. “I will.” She looked so much like Livia, except with Blake’s green eyes. This little girl was braver than she should be. Just like her mom.

  Emme reached out to his forearm and touched the brothers’ tattoo. “My daddy and Uncle Cole have that same thing.” Her touch was gentle. He nodded. “That means you’re family. My mommy will make you hot dogs when she comes home. And then you can see my frog puppet.”

  “I can’t wait to meet that puppet. I need you to do me a favor. Your dad has to stay here with you. Your brother and you need your dad to make you hot dogs until your mom comes home. Okay?” Beckett smiled as the girl nodded solemnly.

  Just then a flying weight pounded him on the back and kicked him in the butt. Beckett stood and turned, accepting a full-body hug from Kyle. Then she punched him in the arm.

  “Seriously. I’ll bring her back. You have to make sure your man stays put. Okay?” Beckett set her on her feet and looked at his brothers.

  “I’m only asking because I might need one of you to drive somewhere. I need people I can count on. Otherwise I’d bring you both in a heartbeat.” Beckett tussled Emme’s hair and reached out to squeeze Kyle’s hand.

  Blake looked like he was standing in full sunlight ten years ago. “I can’t do nothing.”

  “Whitebread needs you here.” He didn’t say it out loud, but he knew Blake got it: If he failed, the kids needed a parent.

  “Anyone talk to Eve?” He had to have her on his team tonight. He just had to.

  Blake sighed. “A few hours ago. She’s working on something, trying to help. She hasn’t texted me back since we spoke.”

  Beckett’s stomach flipped thinking of her. Hearing her name in conversation flashed him back to the way things used to be. He wanted her. He handed Cole his phone. “Can you put John’s number in here? Does he text?”

  Before he could focus any part of himself on Eve, Whitebread needed to get back home. He nodded at his brothers, collected his phone, and left without saying goodbye.

  He had McHugh on the line before he even got in the car. “Sir, I need your men to stay off of anyone who’s been associated with me in the past for a few hours.”

  John didn’t pretend to be cordial. “No. I’d never issue that order. Anyone doing something illegal is fair game.”

  Beckett turned the car toward to his old stomping grounds. “With all due respect, I came out of foster care and ruled this town in less than a year. I can find one girl in a few hours. But in order to do that? I’m going to be busting this place up. With or without you, my brother gets his wife back tonight. There are no other options.”

  Beckett sped into the parking lot that had once held his strip mall office. It was just rubble now.

  “All I can say is I won’t arrest you until after Livia’s home.” John disconnected the call.

  “Fuck him.” Beckett exited his car and nodded at the gathered douchebags. There were only nine. He didn’t ask about the others. He didn’t address his long absence. “Anyone hear anything about a girl? Woman? Brown hair?” Beckett crossed his arms and waited. The streets were liquid with information if the right people had their ears open. No one said anything. “You will be compensated. And if I find out you knew something and didn’t ’fess up, you will live the rest of your life without your dick.” Beckett scanned the crowd.

  “Boss, I heard of one of the abandoned houses on the east side has some movement around it tonight, a few cars there.” One of his old drug runners offered the first bit of information.

  “I heard Joey Fantone was making good money now. Bought himself a new Cadillac. Ain’t nobody I know giving Joey any money—unless it was you. Never imagined you were still on this side of your grave.” This guy used to run a pawn shop. Maybe he still did.

  “Anybody offer you money lately?” Beckett gave the man a cold stare.

  “A cop’s been nosing around. Named Ryan Morales.” The pawn owner shifted on his feet. “And some other guy came a few weeks ago asking about the cop. Swear he was looking to buy him out—like old-school you.”

  Beckett absorbed the information, tried to put all the pieces together.

  “Saw Eve yesterday.”

  Beckett’s eyes found the man like heat-seeking missiles. This butterball used to keep the hookers in check. “She was with some pig. All over him. They were sucking tonsils at that diner on route nine. She has her hair black. Funny though, ’cause I know she went out for a call to be a girl for an organization.” He smirked. “She’d go for some good money. Bet she fucks like an animal.” He looked around with a snicker, searching for another man to corroborate his slimy point of view.

  The parking lot was silent. Butterball looked nervously back at Beckett. “Just kidding. God, I was just kidding. I’m sorry. I’m an asshole.”

  “What organization?” Beckett made a fist, wanting to crumble the man’s face.

  “Some crazy lady down in the city. Big league. Her daddy’s in weapons—of all varieties. Couple of my girls went to the call as well. They haven’t come back, so I guess they got scooped up. Fuckers. I should be getting compensated.” He stretched and Beckett could see he’d added a new neck tattoo.

  A tall, quiet man he remembered as Milton Conts cleared his throat. He’d procured hard-to-get things for Beckett back in the day.
Mouse had trusted him. “There’s an event this evening on Long Island that’s been generating quite a bit of buzz. The woman seems to have sent summonses more than invites, but she’s still billing it as a party. Might be a good place to get information. I could possibly manufacture you an invitation if you want to get in.”

  Beckett nodded. “Okay. I need you four to suit up and get a few cars between you. Arm yourself to the teeth of your balls.” He nodded at the tall man. “I’ll need that invite. Text me when it’s ready. Butterball, call Joey Fantone and offer him a job with a shit ton of money. Have him meet you here.”

  First, Beckett would be checking out the abandoned house. Second, he was going to torture Joey until he had every bit of information the man knew. Third, he was going to that motherfucking party and killing them one by one until someone who knew something about Livia spoke. Adrenaline flooded his heart. It beat as if it could power a hundred men. Damn it all if it didn’t feel fantastic.


  Night Walk

  LIVIA TOOK A DEEP BREATH as someone removed the scarf around her head. She sat on the floor with her wrists bound in front of her—at least her legs were free. She found herself in a rather well-appointed house. The room was decorated nicely, but with all the cold personality of a hotel. She could count five men in the room.

  Her breasts were leaking. She was wearing a black shirt, but it was still obvious. Tears slipped down her cheeks, not because of all she faced, but because she knew her baby was hungry. They were all out of frozen breast milk. Blake would have to buy formula. And what if Kellan didn’t tolerate it? Blake. She was terrified for him. If he’d been taken this way, she’d be a mess.

  “Please let me call home and tell them I’m okay. Just a quick call.” She was about to get into how she needed to feed the baby when a harsh look from the man closest to her curled her tongue quiet.

  They went back to what they were doing, which seemed mostly like consulting their phones. Hopelessness swamped her, staggering her mind. This was obviously planned. She thought back to the abduction, running through it to see if the outcome could’ve been different:

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