Saving poughkeepsie, p.24
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       Saving Poughkeepsie, p.24
 

           Debra Anastasia

  Beckett drove the rest of the way to the next meeting thinking about the woman in the video still. She might have had nothing to do with why Dr. Hartt was dragged in. But if she worked at the hospital too, that was a connection. Maybe a connection Ted Hartt hadn’t known about.

  Ted Hartt had been a good guy. Beckett knew he’d never do anything to hurt Eve. Not on purpose.

  Eve sat down on the bench with Midian and Tashika at their usual place at the courthouse. It was colder than normal in the hallway. Or maybe Eve just couldn’t get warm anymore.

  Tashika started. “I’m so sorry about your father.” Midian’s face registered surprise. Tashika added, “Heard at the hospital he’d passed away.”

  Midian turned to Eve and gave her a huge hug. “I’m so sorry, baby.”

  Eve patted Midian’s back, swallowing the emotion that flooded her throat. Kindness might just be the worst part.

  “Thanks.” Before the girls could ask any questions—such as how?—Eve continued on. She passed out two index cards. “I need find out about this property. I’d love to know about the paperwork situation, who owns it, that kind of thing. And Tashika, I’d like to know if it’s on the radar for any of your clients.”

  “A school?” Midian tapped the card against her bosom.

  “Yes, old Catholic one. You know it?” Eve waited. The small brunette had a mind like a steel trap. If something crossed her desk, she remembered.

  “Just saw this the other day. Someone was putting in the paperwork to get it condemned. My cousin used to go there.”

  Eve nodded. “Thanks for that. We have some pretty interesting plans for the place, and they’re all on the up and up. I just want to make sure it’s not in the center of something I don’t already know about. I would like to know if it’s going to be condemned.” She looked from one friend to another. “You guys got anything you need me to do?”

  “Not right now. I’ve got a few people for you when you’re ready with that project we discussed last time.” Tashika scanned the hallway out of habit. “But nothing that needs action now.”

  “Well, none of the houses is quite ready yet, but we’ve got crews working, if your people need jobs,” Eve said. “Text me their info and we’ll get in touch.”

  Tashika nodded, and Eve watched as Ryan came walking around the corner, dressed in a suit. He spotted her and smiled. Tashika got up from the bench like she didn’t know Eve or Midian, pretending to talk on her phone. They weren’t hiding, but they tried to not make it too obvious that they were friends.

  “Eve.” Ryan nodded at her.

  “You motherfucker.” Eve stood. “Take anything that’s mine lately?”

  “Well, technically it wasn’t yours…”

  Midian was between the two of them so quickly, an earring clutched in her hand like a weapon. “You stole from her? You son of a bitch. You best hand it back right now.” She pointed in his face.

  Ryan looked down at her. “Slow down. You just attack people now?”

  Midian was hopping mad, and Eve smiled wickedly at Ryan. “I wouldn’t mess with her. She’ll kick your ass.”

  “I don’t give a crap what you took from her,” Midian said. “You give it back now.”

  Eve watched Ryan’s eyes sparkle a bit while Midian threatened his life. Her friend was a little powerhouse. She’d have to ask her if she was still dating that hot guy from the Internet. She touched the woman’s shoulder. “I got it. Thanks, though. I’ll sic you on him if he doesn’t pay up.”

  Midian pointed at her own eyes and then at Ryan’s face before turning to leave, putting her earring back on.

  Ryan watched her go for a moment before he addressed Eve. “I’ve got the tracking device with my guy. He’s been able to get a few things done. Right now the chip registers that it’s still at your father’s apartment, and he’s working to find a reverse-track procedure. As soon as I have any information you need, I’ll give it to you.”

  She crossed her arms. “Really? You’re in charge of this? When did I decide I was putting that in your hands?”

  “When you were toasted out of your mind on whiskey?” He looked at his watch. “I have court in less than five minutes.”

  “I want the chip back.” Eve narrowed her eyes.

  “It’s good to want things.” Ryan stepped past her.

  “This isn’t over.” She scowled at him.

  “I didn’t think it was. But you having that chip means you have that chip. I want to be a buffer between you and that knowledge. Take that as you will. I’ve got someone working on it. Trust me.”

  He continued down the hall, and Eve noticed that he looked at the door Midian had gone through.

  So Ryan wanted to be the one to check out Nicholas’ whereabouts. She understood why, but it wasn’t going to play out that way. She needed that information for her own purposes, which meant she needed to find out who his friend was. She had plenty of friends too. Eve waved good-bye to Tashika on her way out of the building.

  That afternoon, Beckett pulled up to the meeting house late. Eve was already there, having arrived in the Audi she drove when her bike wasn’t an option. He buttoned his suit jacket and pulled his laptop out of the passenger seat.

  When he walked into the house, the group quieted down. He went to the table that had been set up for him in one corner of the room. Eve stood in the opposite corner, and he caught more than a few of the guys checking her out.

  “Assholes. Douchebags.” He opened his laptop but remained standing, tilting the screen up to face him.

  “I’ve pulled up the work reports on the properties, and things are progressing nicely—except the place over on June Street. Which fuck-ups are on that one? Raise your hands.”

  Four guys put their hands in the air, hesitantly. Beckett looked them over.

  “Rocky, you’re dropping Evergreen Road and taking over June Street. If these jizz rags can’t get their dicks to stand straight, you tell Eve.”

  Rocky nodded. “My crew can finish at Evergreen without me, boss.”

  “Spider? Can you give these bastards an overview?” Beckett waited for the pale computer genius to put his words together.

  He stood with slightly trembling hands. “We’re looking into acquiring three businesses in Poughkeepsie. Uh…um…A laundromat, a pawn shop, and a liquor store that used to belong to Vitullo. The employees were forced into the situation, so we’re going give them the option of being on their own—no more money laundering or storing illegal weapons or drugs—or having Taylor backing as they get started fully legit. Either way, if we see any movement on these stores, we need to alert someone.”

  Spider projected pictures of the businesses and their employees on the blank, freshly painted walls.

  Assholes and douchebags nodded, processing the information.

  Beckett rubbed his forehead. “Next up, we’ve got three warehouses that we’re burning down in the next week. I know how it’s going down, but your job is to have solid alibis until at least Friday. I need you all to pay attention to your surroundings. And also, anyone who finds any information on the whereabouts of Nicholas Rodgers—Vitullo’s henchman—will be rewarded.”

  Eve met his eyes with her cold, calculating stare. It was her thanks.

  “Now, like last time, if you got people who need help, a job, or that you’re worried about please see one of the five of us. We’ll get that shit handled. Class dismissed.”

  The longest part of these meetings was always the one on ones. Eve, Shark, Spider, Rocky, and Dutch listened to concerns. Some people were getting shaken down by loan sharks, and there was a guy hanging around the rehab joint trying to sell drugs. There was a little league team without uniforms, and even a report of a dog tied to a tree in a backyard, seemingly without water.

  After all the douchebags and assholes had been heard, the five brought the concerns to the center. They matched similar problems and issues, looking for patterns. It seemed like four of the problems were being caused by the s
ame loan shark. Eve wanted that case. She wanted it so bad Beckett almost didn’t give it to her. Some coordinating and bargaining resulted in a manageable task list for each person.

  Next up was the largest project, burning down three warehouses, one of which was a Vitullo property.

  “I think all at once,” said Eve. “Same damn minute. We can have Spider hack into the cameras so we can pull anyone out before we light them up.”

  Shark nodded. “I’ve got a firecracker arsonist on speed dial. She’ll get us some nice, hard-to-trace shit. Name’s Bang, which is perfect.”

  Eve lifted her eyebrows. “Bang? I’ve heard of her—you sure she’s legit?”

  “So far.” Shark shrugged. “She’s freelance, but…”

  Beckett nodded, closing the matter as he pulled up the map on his computer. “I have a company that’s pushing a merger that will effectively reestablish these four warehouses as legitimate businesses.” He pointed at the screen. “They’ll be recycling products that we can utilize in our builds. But that won’t be in place for at least a year. They’ve got to get through legal, retrofit the machines—it’ll be a while. So for now we keep on keeping on. We just finalized the Certificate of Occupancy on five homes, so after the burns, Eve and I will place some people in the houses. Any questions?”

  Spider cleared his throat, “What about the abandoned school?”

  “That’s a clean project. Still have to dilute enough cash to make that work. It’ll be a charity-based operation.” Beckett closed his laptop.

  Shark stifled a laugh. “No, what is it really? A brothel?”

  “It’s legit. Shut your mouth.” Eve gave him a harsh look, and he stopped his ribbing.

  “Let’s go.” Beckett held the door open as everyone filed through before he locked the door with his huge set of keys.

  Eve hung back.

  He leaned in for a kiss, and she gave him her cheek.

  “How’d your meeting go?” he asked.

  “Good. They’re solid. Midian thinks she can dig up some stuff on the school. Apparently someone’s trying to get it condemned.” She leaned against the car.

  He leaned next to her. “I’ll go to the Pope if I have to to get this done.”

  “I ran into Morales. I think he was into Midian a bit.” She looked at her shoes.

  “That make you jealous?” He wished he could take it back the second he said it. “Forget I said that. He’s got great taste in women, so I’m sure she’s hot.”

  “I think I’m doing good, and then it hits me all over again.” Lacing her fingers together, Eve sighed.

  “Time doesn’t heal all wounds.” He wrapped his arm around her. “Especially this quick.”

  “Yeah, I know.”

  They stood like that for a few before she pushed away from the car. “We got to get home to G. If I don’t feed him on time, he’ll give me the business.”

  “Meet ya there.”

  Beckett got in his car and watched as she pulled out. Something was wrong with his wife. Above and beyond her father’s death, she was wilting as he watched.

  20

  The Master

  Weeks passed, and Beckett began to feel a bit more positive. Eve was clearly still struggling, but she’d opened herself up to helping with his projects—what he wanted to be their projects—making Poughkeepsie a better place. The process of tracking Nicholas remained agonizingly slow, so they just didn’t speak of it. She went about her duties, and he went about his during the day. Then at night they worked to move forward into a life built around something other than pain and fear.

  He allowed himself a small smile and a moment of optimism as he pulled up to the freshly painted house. There was a rental moving truck outside, and his new tenant, Catrina, struggled toward the front door under the weight of a large box. He hopped out of the car quickly and grabbed the other end.

  “Wow. You moving in by yourself?” He took the brunt of the weight off of her.

  “I’ll have help in a few. My brother is getting off of work soon.” She went to take a step backward.

  “No, you push, I’ll go in reverse!” Beckett helped her maneuver the box inside and onto the living room floor.

  “So you’re a landlord who does moving? This is my lucky day.” She stuck her hands in her jeans.

  “Where’s the little one? Preschool?” Beckett looked around the interior. She’d brought a huge bunch of boxes in by herself.

  “Yeah. He loves that program. I have three hours, and then I have to leave to go get him. Thanks for hooking me up with that counselor. She really knew what I was looking for.” She was pretty, but looked tired. “Look at all this stuff people donated!”

  As one of Beckett’s new renters, Catrina had been vetted through one of the most unconventional processes ever. Tashika, Eve’s friend, had mentioned that her cousin knew someone living in a car with her child. She’d been giving the kid to friends and neighbors when it was time for a job interview. Her brother was working two jobs, but between the two of them, they still couldn’t save up enough for a security deposit and rent.

  Beckett had driven by the car in question and got out to walk around it one night. Sure enough, a woman was curled in the back under blankets, and a small hand peeked out. She was keeping her son safe and warm as best she could in such an exposed situation. He’d called a douchebag to provide security while he made calls through the night. By morning, Ryan Morales was approaching the car, calming the panicked mom who thought he was there to take her son away. Instead, he had a number for a counselor.

  The counselor, Tammy, had met with the mom and offered a new situation, which Beckett had orchestrated. After working though her disbelief and distrust, the mom had met with Beckett in a Panera. Over bagels he’d purchased, he told her his genuine story, so she would know what she was getting into, that his past was littered with things that made him an unlikely hand to hold.

  He’d shown her the house they were now standing in with Eve one afternoon last week. Eve had a cool, calculated business demeanor that for sure classed up his shit show. The contracts were drawn up, and the two-bedroom rambler was now hers to live in until she was ready to move out. The rent would be ten percent of her paycheck, and for now she would be doing bookkeeping for Eve from home so she could be around her son. Her brother, who’d dabbled in petty crime, was to live in the other bedroom. It was small, but it was safe, and it would be warm.

  After wishing her the best and helping with a couple more of the heaviest boxes, Beckett presented her with a fan of gift cards to local businesses and restaurants. He waved away her thanks. None was necessary. Helping her helped him. It gave him a rush, just like his work in Maryland had done. He had a fresh set of principles he was proud of.

  Her brother arrived just in time for Beckett to shake his hand as his sister left to pick up her son from preschool.

  “On the up and up,” Beckett told him. “Or I’ll know and you’re out. Got it?”

  The brother nodded. Beckett was satisfied with the mixture of respect and fear in the man’s eyes.

  Next, Beckett took a short drive across town and pulled into the counselor’s parking lot. She’d given him a tip about a prospective client for the Brother’s Legacy home, once it was ready, or at least a kid Beckett should get to know. Tammy was friendly and on the ball, and she had a truckload of common sense, which was his favorite. Midian and Livia both had given good references for the woman.

  When her secretary signaled him, Beckett swooped into her office, taking his seat and his hat off in the same motion. “So what’ve we got?”

  Tammy passed a photo over to him. “Well, Scottland Bell is kind of an asshole. But I think he’s your kind of asshole.” She tapped the teen’s face with her manicured nail.

  Beckett took the picture. The kid looked surly, shooting a camera a look like he didn’t trust it. He was smoking and already had tattoos on his fingers and neck.

  “How old?”

  “Scottland is almost
seventeen.”

  “Who took this picture?” Beckett committed the face to memory.

  “It was on the Internet. I printed it to show you.” She pulled up his file on her computer. “Four foster homes. Hasn’t been to the latest one in three days. Also forgot to show up at school for the last week. So I’m a little worried. He’s got a ton of street smarts. But he’s still a kid.” Tammy shrugged.

  “Tell me why you think I need to be all up in his business.” Beckett leaned back in his chair.

  “Okay, so I went on a home visit a while back. And the foster mom? She has a heart of gold, has a bunch of special needs kids. How Scottland was placed there, I’m not sure, but she kept raving about him. And I thought, really? Are we talking about the same kid? I mean, he’s charming, but you know he’s trouble. But I get to the kitchen, and he doesn’t realize I’m there, so I just watch from the doorway. He’s patiently feeding one of the kids in a wheelchair, just chatting away, wiping the boy’s face with such tenderness. When he saw me he threw a wall up and made a point to curse, but I saw him when he didn’t have to front for anyone. That’s why I think he’s worth fighting for.” Tammy looked back at the screen.

  Beckett nodded. “So is he still in the special needs house?” He pulled out his phone and began scrolling through his contacts, trying to picture who would know where this kid might be.

  “He is. It was the best fit so far,” Tammy said. “The foster mother is crazy about him, and he was getting into a lot less trouble. But now he’s disappeared, and she’s concerned.”

  “They don’t call him Scottland on the street, though. What do they call him? Do you know?”

  Tammy shook her head. “He jokes that his nickname is ‘The Master.’ But he usually responds to Land.”

  “I’ll have him back home in the next twelve hours, if he’s alive.” Beckett smiled at Tammy when he saw her grinning.

  “I think I’m going to love this new arrangement,” she said.

  Beckett was already texting, putting out an APB on Scottland, as he returned to his car. When his phone chimed back at him, he was amazed at his douches’ speed—until he saw the message was from Spider. He’d found something new.

 
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