Return to poughkeepsie, p.27
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.27

           Debra Anastasia

  Primo’s grin dissolved into a huge yawn as he made himself comfortable on the couch. Rodolfo looked away, trying to focus on the nature outside the window. An hour later his daughter appeared with her hands clasped. When she was tired or guilty her face regained a shade of its pre-surgery look. Rodolfo looked at her from a distance and remembered her mother’s beauty before waving her forward. Primo sat up on the couch, seemingly eager to witness the show.

  “Leave us, Primo.” Rodolfo put his hand up to ward off his son’s protests. “Don’t make me say it twice.”

  Primo stomped out of the room but knew better than to question Rodolfo. The king was back in his castle.

  “I know how much is missing. Tell me everything. What else did Harmon take?”

  Mary Ellen went to the couch and draped herself across it. “I thought I was in love, Daddy. I thought he was the one.”

  “Don’t. You could have loved him without filling his pockets with my money.” Rodolfo gripped the arms of his chair. He had to focus to make his weak hand respond, but he forced himself to do it.

  Mary Ellen began the tale from the beginning, telling him how scary his stroke had been for her and how Sevan had seemed so capable, so eager to help her succeed. She promised her revenge and swore she’d taken decisive action. Not only would she recover the money, she’d ruin Sevan’s business by taking Poughkeepsie off the table. She spoke at length of her parties and her trained women and her threats to just about everyone, though she was a little light on the details where costs and collateral damage were concerned. Even so, after a time he could not listen for another minute while she babbled on about ball gowns and diamonds, and he held up a hand to silence her. She stopped her full-body dancing demonstration and returned to the couch, but her eyes never left his.

  He had to hand it to her—at least a little. She did have confidence, and she did have a plan. It would never work in a million years, and it would likely land her in jail or worse, but at least it involved a coherent thought pattern—unlike Primo’s gas station gambling. Perhaps he hadn’t given her quite enough credit, or quite enough attention. Something was out of whack with this one for sure. For now the best approach seemed to be containment.

  “Let me think on this, dear,” he told her sweetly. “This certainly causes a bit of trouble, but it’s nothing we can’t recover from in time, don’t you think?”

  She nodded so vigorously he feared her head might fly off.

  “All right, then. I need to rest now. I have therapy in the morning, but perhaps you could come back tomorrow afternoon to discuss the best strategy for the future.”

  “Of course, Daddy. Oh, thank you. I feel so much better now that you know. I’m sorry I kept it from you, but I just didn’t want to upset your recovery and—”

  “Nonsense, you were covering your own ass. No need to blow smoke up mine. Come back tomorrow, and try not to get us any deeper into this clusterfuck between now and then.”

  She stood, saying nothing more, and curtsied on her way out.

  Ryan looked around and was startled to discover he had no freaking idea where he was. His ribs hurt, he had to take a massive piss, and he was pretty sure his headache was eating his brain. His eyes focused on Eve’s dad, who sat nearby, watching him, and he gradually recognized the room around him as Dr. Hartt’s apartment. “Sir?”

  “Get up slowly, son. You’ve taken quite a blow to the head.” The man took the stethoscope from around his neck and placed it in his ears.

  “Eve?” Ryan sat up and felt his whole body wince.

  “She went with the other guy. Do you know who he was?” Dr. Hartt listened to Ryan’s chest and checked his pupils.

  “No. He helped her last night. What’d she tell you?” His throat felt like he’d given a cactus a blowjob.

  “Nothing.” The man was pissed. And worried.

  “I got to call in.” Ryan rubbed his eyes. His vision was blurry.

  “McHugh already knows you’re here. And he wants you to stay.”

  Dr. Hartt handed him a glass of tepid water. After gulping it down, Ryan hoped desperately he could have more. It tasted so damn good.

  “That’s not going to work until I know where Eve is.” Ryan stood and swayed.

  “You have a concussion. And I’m pretty sure you have a few fractured ribs. And have you seen your face?” Ted pointed toward the decorative mirror on the wall.

  Ryan took tentative steps. His vision was sharpening, but he wished it wasn’t. He looked like a human canker sore. “Jesus.”

  “I’ve been trying to find out about Eve too.” The doctor’s cell phone rang. “Yeah. He’s come to. He’s standing at least.” He turned his back on Ryan.

  It hit him again how much he had to take a piss. He guessed correctly and found the bathroom. When he came out, Dr. Hartt was waiting.

  “McHugh’s swinging by to pick you up. He said to be ready. I’m going to give you some painkillers, but you really should be in bed. A concussion is a brain injury.”

  Ryan took the second glass of water gratefully. “Thanks.” He tucked the envelope of pills in his tux pants pocket. “Do I have shirt?” He didn’t remember taking it off. “I have to feed my fish, find Eve.”

  The doctor went into the bedroom, and Ryan’s gaze fell on his collection of pictures again. Eve was blonde in each of them—even when she was younger. And then there was the picture that had caught his eye the first time through. He focused again on the tattoo on the man’s arm as he posed with an unsmiling Eve.

  Dr. Hartt returned and handed Ryan a plain white T-shirt. “You can keep this. I’m going to have to toss the other one—too much blood, and it was all torn up.”

  “Figures. It was rented.” He slipped the T-shirt over his head and gasped. “Seriously! Hamster fucks, that hurts.”

  Dr. Hartt helped him get the shirt over his body. “Sorry, I should’ve gotten you a button down. This is usually stuff the nurses handle.” He looked at the pictures Ryan had been examining.

  “I miss her hair. The black’s too harsh.” Ted picked up the very image Ryan had fixated on.

  “Who’s that? He looks familiar.” Ryan pointed with his pinky.

  “That’s my nephew, Blake.” Ted replaced the picture.

  “I feel like I’ve seen that tattoo before…” He was being obvious, but he didn’t care. He hurt too much to care.

  “Yeah, a few guys have it. His brothers.” Dr. Hartt went to the window. “Up, the captain’s here. I’ll help you downstairs.”

  Ryan probably would’ve pushed more, but his brain was freaking exhausted. After getting down the stairs in as manly a way as he could with Eve’s dad’s help, Ryan met Captain McHugh at the door.

  “Can’t thank you enough, Ted. It’s been a crazy night,” the captain said. He took note of Dr. Hartt’s instructions for Ryan’s care, then responded to the man’s questions about his family. “Yeah, we got her home. It’s good. Blake’s doing okay. I think it messed with all of us.”

  Carefully he walked Ryan to the unmarked police car and watched him flop in. Ryan knew grace was not his strong point right now.

  McHugh turned back to Dr. Hartt. “Hey, if you’re up to it I think Blake and Livia’d love to have you drop by—and just observe Livvie for me. She says she’s okay, but I want to make sure from a medical point of view.”

  Hartt agreed as McHugh got in the driver’s side.

  “Your daughter’s married to Blake? Blake with the tattoo on his arm?” Ryan put his head against the headrest.

  “He’s got a few tattoos. So you want to go back to your place and get changed?” John put the car in drive and started off.

  Ryan’s fuzzy brain made the connections slowly. “Blake’s brother is Beckett Taylor?” Ryan turned his head to see his boss.

  McHugh nodded. “Not blood. But they’re devoted.”

  The pictures from his files at the office swam before Ryan’s eyes. He replaced the blond skunk hair with plain dark hair…The guy from last n
ight was Beckett Taylor. Beckett Taylor who killed Nikko and Wade. Beckett Taylor who’d taken the joy right out of his mother’s eyes.

  “Did you know he’s in town?” Ryan felt panicked, then betrayed.

  “Spoke with him yesterday. He…was a necessary evil.” McHugh was obviously tortured by his involvement.

  “You know he got off easy. Seven years ago he killed two men—just claimed self-defense and got off.” Nikko and Wade had mattered. It wasn’t fair that no one was fighting for them.

  “We had nothing good on him. I went over that case a million times. You know as well as I do that once a case leaves our desks any damn thing can happen—and usually does. Christ, you can get more time for holding a bag of dope than beating a baby to death. We can only do our jobs the best we can.” McHugh pulled into the parking lot of Ryan’s apartment complex. “You need help up there?”

  Hearing that McHugh had looked into the case made Ryan feel a tiny bit better, justified a little. He’d always liked his boss, and the man did things by the book. Having to work with Beckett Taylor—and feeling like he needed to work with Beckett Taylor—probably sucked.

  “I got it. There’s an elevator.” Ryan pulled himself awkwardly out of the car. “My truck is still at that place. The key’s with the valet.” Ryan pulled his house keys out of his pocket, somewhat surprised to see them considering everything he’d been through.

  “I’ll see if we can get Tommy out to tow it, and I’ll get a patrol car over here. Clean up and then you can ride over to the station. I know you must feel terrible, and you do need to rest, but I need you to explain as much as you can from the video we pulled off your phone.”

  Ryan nodded and winced at the movement. “Okay, later.”

  He trudged to the front door of the building and punched in the code. After a trip in the creaky elevator that always smelled vaguely like piss, he stumbled to his door. He needed to swallow some of those pills Eve’s dad had given him and drink about five gallons of water. He opened the door and an entire wall of balloons fell on top of him.


  She’d somehow rigged his front door with tape and balloons so he had an avalanche of the things to deal with. Oddly, they weren’t laced with something evil. He stomped and popped his way through the entryway. He went to the fridge and a frosty twelve-pack of water waited for him. He guzzled two and looked around. Based on the balloon setup, Trish should still be here in his fucking apartment. A huge banner that said I love you! was taped to his big-screen TV. There were balloons and flowers and what looked like an entire aisle of a Target store’s Valentine display.

  Motion-activated dancing animals damn near gave him a heart attack when they all started singing and playing fake instruments as he headed into the bathroom. His mirror was covered with lipstick kisses and hearts. “Trish? Are you here?”

  He turned to the toilet and lifted the lid—a sure sign a woman had been in his place—and got his answer a few seconds too late. His bladder had been completely full thanks to all the damn hydrating, and as his pee hit the plastic-wrap barrier and splashed off and down the sides of the bowl, he cursed.

  “Ahhhh, crap.” There was another lipstick message on the inverse of the lid: Where were you all night???

  He immediately checked on Poseidon, who was alive but hungry. And he examined the food carefully before feeding it to the fish. “At least she’s smart enough to leave you alone, buddy. I am so frisking her ass and stealing back my key.”

  Upon further examination, he found his apartment to be littered with the remnants of her evening, and she’d once again liberated him of a number of key items. No more towels, no more bedding. Interspersed with the decorations and proclamations of adoration were further signs of her meltdown and disappointment. She’d switched from lipstick to Sharpie at some point, and Where were you? was a recurring theme. On his stripped bed he found scraps of lingerie, probably hacked from her body with the kitchen knife lying next to them. She’d written on his bare mattress: I’LL BE WATCHING YOU WHILE YOU’RE FUCKING HER!!!!

  “Wow.” He noticed his open bedroom window and saw that the ladder for the fire escape was engaged. He closed the window, noting that the lock was now busted, and went to his bathroom. He stepped over the puddle of his own urine and took a long, hot shower.

  As he steamed, his thoughts shifted from Trish to Eve and turned over the ridiculous events of the last twenty-four hours. He had a horrible feeling. If Beckett Taylor had hurt her, there was yet another reason to kill the man.


  The Saddest Thing

  CHERY HEARD THE NOW-FAMILIAR BUZZ from the nightstand and looked at her phone. Jared had texted her fifteen times since Beckett left town yesterday. One of the store patrons had let it slip that the boss was gone. Word traveled fast in this town.

  She hated herself for even looking at the words. But she’d never left him before, and for a time she felt powerful. And yet she missed him. He had a way of making her feel electric. It was so stupid. She knew, in her mind, that he was never going to change. But in her heart? She hoped she could change him. Back in the day, when they first got together, he’d been nice to Vere. He’d whistled at Chery loud and long, always giving her a compliment. Feeling that desired made her seem important, protected. Again, she was a dumbass. So that’s where the guilt came from.

  Jared’s first texts had been filled with anger and rage. But now he texted her pictures of flowers and teddy bears. And this very latest text was an apology. She’d never heard those types of words from his mouth. They made her feel strong again, powerful enough to grant him her presence. The house was full of men: one weird guy from Poughkeepsie and two she’d once worked with at the store. Vere was exhausted and sleeping after a day of playing with Gandhi, as always.

  She texted Jared back for the first time since she left:

  Ur getting sweet on me. Don’t recognize u.

  His text back was almost instant:

  U should. Sorry. I’ll be better.

  She waited, turning on the bedside light.

  Look! I miss you so much.

  Just talking to you did this to me.

  His next text was a picture of his erect penis. She blushed looking at it, and jumped when her phone flashed with an incoming call from him.

  She quickly hit the button to ignore it. What the hell am I thinking? Beckett would be so disappointed.

  He texted right after the phone beeped with the voicemail he left.

  Don’t b scared. U know I need u.

  She got up and closed the bedroom door completely before texting back:

  U don’t need me.

  I do. U know this time of year is ruff 4 me.

  His parents had told him they were getting a divorce in the spring. This time of the year always got him down.

  I no.

  U know or u no? Be specific. My dick is hard.

  She waited a little longer. He texted another picture of his penis.

  I know.

  I been missing u a lot. Ur so pretty. Miss ur mouth.

  U lie.

  I won’t lie anymore. I need u. Bought u a present.

  She shook her head at her phone. Her hands were shaking and, damn, her heart was beating fast. It felt like she was falling in love with him all over again.


  The next picture was thong underwear. She hated that style.

  Ur ass will look so hot in this.

  The next text was a video of him getting himself off, whispering her name. She snorted. He was going to every extreme. She saw herself in the mirror and flushed red. Her eyes were wild with the excitement of it, the danger of him. She was supposed to be good. Stay here and take care of Vere. But Vere was sleeping now, and just a few moments with Jared would make her feel different. She held her breath as she texted:

  U handle that by urself?

  Meet me on the road out back. U can handle it.

  Chery bit her lip and put down her phone. Quickly she put on
a dress and left off the panties. This made her like a heroine in a romance novel—being sexy, meeting her lover. She brushed out her hair and swished with mouthwash.


  He was right outside. Just a few minutes with him, then she’d leave again to prove she could. Chery slipped out the window of her bedroom in Beckett’s house. She walked carefully out onto the garage. Jared was on the blind side of the house, waiting for her. As she turned and dropped down from the roof, his hands slid up her legs and under her dress. She faced flat against the wall as he ravished her. She’d never felt so sexy in her whole life. His hands were everywhere at once.

  “I’m seriously going to come in my jeans. You are so hot.”

  She turned and kissed him deeply. He palmed her breasts and pinched her nipples, hard. She gasped.

  “You’ll remember who your daddy is by the end of the night.” His breath was laced with whiskey, and his callused fingertips caressed her stomach.

  She smiled in his strong arms. “That’s what they all say.”

  His eyes flashed with jealousy, and their sliver of meanness gave her a rush. She’d never been so turned on in her entire life. This man did things to her she couldn’t explain. He was toxic, yet she smiled up at him.

  He yanked her arm and dragged her back to the car. Halfway there he tossed her over his shoulder and jammed two fingers inside her and his pinkie in her ass.

  Chery almost came.

  Nighttime settled over the neighborhood as Beckett stopped the car about four blocks from Blake’s house and made the call. He couldn’t stop the smile that spread over his face when his brother answered the phone. “Just wanted an update. Everything still cool?”

  “Yeah. House full of sleepers. Me and Cole just opened a beer. You want in?”

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