Return to poughkeepsie, p.28
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.28

           Debra Anastasia

  He could hear the bottles toasting in the background. Beckett wanted to have a beer with his brothers so bad he could taste it. But he couldn’t risk it. “Yeah, bro, I got to pass. Last thing you guys need is this fucking bastard knocking on your door.”

  “Come around to the basement. We’re waiting for you.” Blake hung up, taking the choice out of his hands.

  Beckett left the car where it was and jogged through yards until he got to Blake’s back door. Blake was waiting, and he must have told the cops this was authorized, because he pulled open the door and grabbed Beckett’s shoulder without any interference.

  Blake already had an extra beer open and pushed it into his hand. With his tattooed arm, he wrapped Beckett in a welcome. Cole joined, and they toasted their drinks above their braided forearms.

  “You fuckers. God, I missed you.” Beckett let his common sense fall away and drained the beer in as few gulps as possible.

  Soon enough they all put the empties on the floor, and Blake pulled out three more, tossing two in the right direction.

  Cole laughed. “This is number three and—” He pulled out his phone and looked at the time. “It’s only been an hour.”

  “That sounds like a good damn day.” They toasted again, and Beckett clapped his brothers on the back. He knew he hadn’t stopped smiling since he walked in the door. “Motherfuckers.” He shook his head.

  Years had passed, and he loved being able to sit with them, instantly at ease—not a beat had been missed. They were the best company. Always would be. In a perfect world, he would talk to both of them every damn day.

  Cole hopped up and hit play on Blake’s iPad. A song poured over them, and they sat in stunned silence while it played.

  Beckett began clapping as it ended. “Honey, you’ve got talent blooming out of your damn asshole. I love you like a fucker.”

  “I feel the same way about you.” Blake laughed and Cole groaned.

  Cole leaned forward after taking another pull from his beer. “So what the hell have you been up to?”

  Beckett shook his head. “What about you guys? Blake’s cranking out babies like a Mormon. What are you and Fairy Princess doing?”

  Cole’s smile turned sober. “Kyle just had a miscarriage. We’ve tried for a long time, and pretty much we just can’t…It’s hard to put in the day right now.”

  “Whoa. No shit. I’m so, so sorry. You must be wrecked.” Beckett shook his head. That kind of devastation must be crumpling Kyle. Such a sensitive, caring chick, with a filthy fucking mouth.

  Cole shrugged. “Everything’s relative, you know? It’s been a crazy bunch of hours. Eve okay?”

  Beckett took a long swallow of his beer before answering. The truth was, he had no fucking clue how she was. After getting back in the car, all full of coffee and sandwiches, he’d kind of lost his mind. He’d had no right to do it, but he’d grilled her about the cop. The way she’d been all over him at the party was one thing, but the way she tended to him at her dad’s was a kick in the pee hole. He could tell she cared about the guy, wanted him safe.

  But it made sense. After so much damn time, she was doing exactly what a normal girl should. But when he’d congratulated her on finding a good man, repeating her own words back to her, she shook her head.

  The argument that followed was not a proud moment. All these years he’d been training himself not to react with anger, instant and vicious, but his discipline had evaporated. He’d done the right thing by having the asshole protected, but that was about it. The last words he remembered launching at her were, “I asked you to not fuck anyone else! That’s all I asked. It’s too hard to keep your goddamn legs closed?”

  “Five fucking years, asshole,” she’d shot back as she slammed the car door, weaved through the parking lot, and disappeared.

  Beckett winced at the memory. He’d been anything but charming. Not the least bit complimentary. She’d looked fantastic. But he was afraid to say so because maybe she’d attribute that to her happiness with the cop.

  He’d decided to give them both some time to cool down. Then he’d catch up with her and fix it. The beer was already settling his frayed nerves.

  “She looks good. Not sure how things are going to work out though,” he finally answered Cole. He got up and pressed play on the iPad, wanting to hear Blake’s hopeful song again. On the baby monitor, he could see Whitebread all safe with her kids tucked in around her. “You did good, sweet pea. Did I tell you that? I was duly impressed with your kick-ass Die Hard rescue.”

  “I was scared the whole damn time.” Blake’s eyes drifted to the monitor. The song matched the picture.

  “That’s because you were amazing. It hurts, and it can be scary. Happens to me all day, every day.” Beckett raised his beer in Blake’s direction.

  Cole snorted, and Blake threw a pillow. Beckett ducked and laughed. If he could keep these two men in his pocket for the rest of his days, he would.

  Chery hid in the bathroom back at Jared’s. Well, hiding wasn’t exactly right. He knew where she was. But this was the safest spot she could find while he raged outside. She sat on the closed toilet, head in her hands. The blood from her lip dripped onto the floor, ironically making a puddle that resembled a heart.

  She wouldn’t make it out alive. She knew this now, and she said a prayer for Vere. In these last minutes of her life, she felt a stunning regret for abandoning her sister. Maybe Beckett would step up and watch out for her. Her tears joined the heart on the floor. This wasn’t love. Now she had clarity—when it wouldn’t do any damn good. Love shouldn’t hurt. Love doesn’t hurt.

  The door vibrated with his fists, and her entire body shivered. This bathroom didn’t have a window. Any time she’d taken a shower, the mirror had fogged up for half an hour. The door vibrated again, and Chery turned on the shower, hoping to buy some time. After a few minutes, tendrils of steam seeped from behind the curtain.

  He’d stopped pounding, and that gave her a small glimmer of hope. Maybe he’d passed out. Lord knows he drank everything in the house tonight. But then the door handle began to jiggle. She rushed forward and held the knob, the moist air making the metal slippery. He’d remembered there was a key to this flimsy lock. She’d had to use it a million times when Vere had locked herself in this very bathroom while Chery and Jared fought. She’d use the key and force her way in, closing the door behind her and cuddling her sister. She always sang her sister’s favorite lullaby then, trying to bring her back around, grounding her by reminding her of their mother’s love.

  The knob twisted in her hands, and terror shot through her. He was so wiry and strong, pushing the door in even though she had all her weight against it. His angry face was filled with victory as he shoved his shoulder through the opening, like in a horror movie.

  Chery quivered as she sank to the floor, but she started to sing—just a whisper, really. “Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop.” Jared pulled her up, his face so close to hers. She sang so quietly, she doubted he could hear her. “When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall…” Her arms were useless, his hands full of venom as they squeezed so hard.

  The saddest thing was, with just a few more sips of anything—beer, whiskey—he would pass out. But there was nothing she could do. Chery closed her eyes, singing the last line of the song in her head because he’d wrapped his hands around her throat: And down will come baby, cradle and all.

  The evening became a haze of old times, and the brothers had a blast as the beers flowed. In the wee hours of the morning, Beckett wished he could stay awake, but eventually his body gave out, and Blake tucked him in on the basement couch like a baby. He hadn’t even been smart enough to protest, and when his phone buzzed, it was already Monday morning. He rubbed his eyes and took a look at the screen—a text from Chaos.

  You know where Chery is?

  “Shit.” Beckett called him immediately. “What the hell are you asking me for. I’m in New York.”

>   “Boss, we thought she was sleeping in. But she’s not here. Her window’s unlocked, and I think she crawled out.”

  “What happened when Vere woke up?” Beckett stared at his feet.

  “I did the shit Chery does in the morning, and I took her to the place she goes to. I looked at the store, but nothing. No one knows where she is.” Chaos was frazzled.

  “Fuck.” Beckett needed a minute to think, but Chaos kept talking.

  “She with the assbag, you think? I mean, we set the alarm. She went to bed before I walked Gandhi, so I set it after he took his dump. I don’t know. Tell me where the ex-boyfriend lives.”

  “You call the number I’m about to text you—it’s the place you dropped off Vere—and tell them Vere’s sister Chery is missing. Ask them if Vere can stay the night. Tell ’em Chery might be in trouble. Then you pack heat and take my employees with you to check out the asshole’s house. I’ll send you that address too. Keep me posted. I’m on my fucking way.”

  Beckett ended the call just as his brothers came down the stairs, questions all over their faces.

  “Sorry—was I too loud? What the hell happened last night? Ahhh, remember when I was trying to be a better fucker?” He texted Chaos the information while he talked. “Well, I wound up being the king of the misfits down in Maryland. Like, my congregation is assholes and down-on-their-luck bastards. My employees are bottom of the barrel, un-hireable twat hairs. But it worked. A lot of them got on their feet for a while.”

  Cole clapped Beckett on the back, pride blooming on his face.

  “Yeah, but, you see, I pictured, like, I don’t know, doing something huge. Saving the world.” Beckett shrugged.

  Blake shook his head. “Sometimes you can save someone’s whole world just by smiling at them. Kindness is one of those things that has immense value to the person experiencing it.”

  “Well, anyway, Chery’s like that—or she was. She works for me at the liquor store, and I’ve been helping her out. She’s got a shitty résumé because she’s got a sister who needs her help and a boyfriend who kicks the crap out of her. Now she’s missing. I got to get down there and see what the hell’s happening.” Beckett ran his hand through his hair. “I’ve got a horrible feeling.”

  Cole squeezed his shoulder. “You need help, brother?”

  “Thanks. No. This is one asshole—up here we got a ton of them. I’ll be back soon. Won’t take me too long to sort this out. Eve and I had a fight-ish thing. So I’ll text her, but if you could keep an eye on her…” Beckett held up his arm, and his brothers’ arms met him in the middle.

  “We can try our best,” Blake said. “But she’s like protecting a shark.”

  “Don’t I know it.” Beckett shook his head.

  He’d already stayed too long, but he hated leaving. What the hell had Chery gotten into? He knew it was Jared. Motherfucker.

  “Should’ve killed him,” Beckett said as he jogged back to his car.



  MARY ELLEN TOOK A NICE BOWL of cereal in the morning because it was good for her digestion. She would never admit it to anyone, but in the recent years, things had become dire if she didn’t have her morning fiber. Officially, she was fifty-three. According to all paperwork, she was thirty-eight and holding. Her fourth face lift had gone a little bit awry, and her eyes didn’t completely close. She sipped from her orange juice glass and tried to ignore the flashback to her juice cleanse last month. Her lips were still numb from the injections a few days ago.

  They weren’t typical, the reasons for her grip on her youth. She just wanted to remain daddy’s little girl for as long as possible. He was starting to forgive her for the Sevan thing, she could tell. Of course he needed the money back, but they’d work together to make that happen. They’d work together, just as she’d always wanted. Perhaps she’d mail Sevan a thank-you note in the end.

  Her brother had looked simply murderous when she passed him on the way out of Daddy’s house yesterday, of course with a smile on her face. Those were the perks of fighting like a woman. Her brother could most likely maintain status quo with the business—at least for a while before he gambled the whole thing away—but she knew her father wanted more for his legacy. Soon she’d have an opportunity to show him what she could provide. The man was eighty-three. Time was a villain who couldn’t be forgotten, but infamy would last forever.

  She just liked his approval. And that wasn’t so wrong.

  Now January was an issue. She’d known the woman was more than she claimed, and yet she’d never expected such blatant disrespect. To leave the party, leave her protection duties when things were clearly falling apart, and take a hostage with her? Mary Ellen touched the linen napkin to where she was almost positive her perfectly plumped lips were. Seems January had a weakness after all. Or at least she hoped she did. Mary Ellen stood and tucked her satin robe around her.

  She jumped at an unexpected knock on the door to her suite. Her staff knew she needed private time after her cereal. What on earth could this be? She signaled the interruption to enter with a stern voice.

  Instead of Bart, January waltzed in wearing jeans and a T-shirt like a common house painter headed to a picnic. Mary Ellen was already angry, but this sloppy attire and unannounced entrance was a slap in the face. What the hell were her people thinking?

  “You have some nerve. My orders were for you to be killed. Can you explain why you’re still looking at me?” She tapped her fingers on her satin robe.

  “You’re insane. That stunt you pulled last night was a giant ass fuck to so many people. You think that’s the way to build trust? To get cooperation? Seriously? I will hand it to you, though. You can improvise the fuck out of a disaster.” January closed the door behind her and put her hands on her hips. “But trotting out Ryan? Kidnapping women and children, including a police captain’s daughter? I’m shocked you’re still looking at me, to be honest. You’ve pissed off a crapload of people. And they’re not going to forget.” January looked her up and down.

  Mary Ellen hated the way the girl seemed to catalogue her with just a glance. “The way I conduct my business has nothing to do with you. As far as I’m concerned, you’re Miracle Grow for my roses now. Bart?” She smiled pleasantly.

  January advanced and stopped just short of the woman’s face. “Here’s what you need to know: Poughkeepsie is mine. The people. The shops. The cops. I decide what happens to them.”

  “You can talk whatever type of gibberish you want. You’re just an animated dead body right now. Bart?” Mary Ellen stood.

  A loud thump hit the door, and January bent down to look in her eyes. “That would be Bart dropping dead.”

  A trickle of fear almost made Mary Ellen gasp, but she stayed silent.

  “I killed my way in here, motherfucker. The dude with the hand surgery? Gone. His smoking friends? Corpses. The pedophile with the eye scar? Spectacularly dead. You messed with my family. That’s not allowed.” January pulled a knife from her hair.

  Finally the fear was given a voice. Mary Ellen shrieked as she realized her closest weapon was in the bedside table drawer. January grabbed her hair and yanked, revealing her throat.

  “Kill me now and my father will hunt down every one you’ve ever met and turn them into dog food,” Mary Ellen spat.

  January shrugged before smiling. “Poughkeepsie’s mine.”

  The blade was so sharp Mary Ellen couldn’t even feel it as it entered her windpipe.

  Eve stood over Mary Ellen’s body and knew she’d made an epic mistake, a horrible miscalculation. These situations were what she was good at fixing, but instead she’d created one. Her mind was like Jell-O between seeing Beckett and managing her feelings for Ryan, which had no place. Both seemed stupid, but the mess at her feet left her no doubts that she was more than a little out of her head.

  Shark burst through the door and into the suite. “What the hell did you do?”

  Acted like a hotheaded pussy. “Get Micki and get
out of here.” Eve turned to face him. Bart’s dead body was lumped in the doorway. The poison she’d injected had paralyzed him standing and stopped his heart shortly thereafter. The sight of him made her want to puke a little. He’d been nice to her. Shark was still standing there, frozen. “Go!” She wiped her knife off on Mary Ellen’s body and slid it back into her hair.

  “You’re staying? ’Cause I didn’t press the panic button—you’re fucking lucky I was on security this morning—but that shit still gets transmitted.” Shark shook his head.

  “Is it still on?” Eve looked at Shark. He was wasting time.

  “Yeah.” He nodded. “I disabled the audio though…You’re just going to stay?” He seemed completely confused.

  “Her father would look into me if I ran. He’d find my family, people I care about. I can’t let that happen.” She inhaled deeply and exhaled, knowing she was doing so without pain for a precious few more minutes.

  “This was some Kamikaze shit.” Shark advanced on her. “You want me to tell anyone anything?”

  She took a swing and hit only his shoulder. “You find my father and Ryan and tell them I’m dead.”

  He swung back and twisted her into a hold she didn’t fight. “Shit. I can’t kill you, you know that.” Shark absorbed her less-than-spectacular blows.

  “Just knock me out, for Christ’s sake.” Eve managed to twist and meet his eyes.

  Shark looked a little sad. “Good luck.”

  He was excellent at the maneuver. The black claimed Eve just as she realized he’d choked her out.

  The old man paused at the top of the steps. He’d been napping in his favorite chair when he was shaken awake. One of his best bodyguards looked nervous, and that never happened. Apparently Mary Ellen was in a bad way. According to the men on the scene, it had been an assassination.

  His people watched him carefully to see how he would react. They were probably all waiting for him to keel over again. But if he’d survived three months of the most ridiculous rehab, he could certainly get through this. He showed no emotion. After all, he was too old to not see this coming. Mary Ellen had made too many rash decisions while he was away, let her emotions get the better of her.

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