Saving poughkeepsie, p.28
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       Saving Poughkeepsie, p.28
 

           Debra Anastasia

  Beckett cleared his throat.

  “Sorry.” Spider got to the point. “It’s yet another woman, and since we had luck with hospital employees before, I started there this time. This doctor is a specialist in private practice—or at least she was—but she had privileges at Poughkeepsie General. And like everyone else who’s had a turn in Nicholas’s room lately, she was at the hospital the night of Eve’s crash.”

  Spider paused, seeming to wait for Beckett to say something. When only silence ensued, he shrugged and continued. “Her specialty? Fertility. Or else it used to be. She got married, then divorced, and was living on her own. Somewhere in there she left her fertility practice, so I followed her trail. These days she’s been in real estate, rather than baby-making, but turns out she left the firm she worked for without so much as a two-weeks’ notice a little over nine months ago. She hasn’t been heard from since—no parents looking for her because they’re both dead. And no kids. Apparently one of her friends filed a missing person’s, but not much came of it. There was nothing to go on. They were totally wasted the last time they were together, so her story was a little hazy.”

  Beckett looked at the image on Spider’s screen. It was now a key component of his worst nightmare: another sign that Rodolfo had possibly been telling the truth. “Okay,” he finally said. “I want you to look at fertility clinics in and out of the country with any connection to that woman—in the timeframe of Eve’s accident and now. Tell me if you find anything out of the ordinary. And I need to talk to Eve.”

  His mind raced as he went back out to his car. What could have happened that would benefit Rodolfo, even beyond the grave? Had Eve had some sort of treatment and never told him? Did she even know? He did not look forward to this conversation. Not one bit.

  24

  Insane

  After more than a year back in town, and despite all the tragedies that had happened since, Eve realized one day that she’d found a bit of peace in Poughkeepsie. With Beckett by her side, she found even pain easier to bear. And partnering with him to rehab the rougher parts of Poughkeepsie had been surprisingly satisfying. She hadn’t killed anyone in…God, she didn’t even remember. Convincing and attitude adjustment was still in her repertoire, but there had been less blood.

  She’d spent this sunny Saturday afternoon checking progress on another of the soon-to-be rentals and had been pleased with the team’s progress. Didn’t even have to raise her voice. Following Beckett’s lead, they really were doing things a new way—a way she’d doubted she could ever exist.

  But she was still haunted by the image of Nicholas rolling the barrel out of the interrogation room, which is why she answered the call from Ryan on practically the first ring as she got into the Audi. He’d been a whole lot easier to deal with since he started dating Midian about five months ago, and though that meant she spent a lot less time with her friend, it was worth it to see him happy and moving forward. Plus, she loved how Midian teased the ever-living fuck out of him. He needed someone with sharp wit and a sense of humor.

  “Yes?” She waited, but didn’t hear her friend’s fast-paced chatter in the background.

  “So I got a hit on your dad’s tracker.”

  “You got a hit on the tracker.”

  “Yeah, I found where it was being traced from. Well, actually the guy who owes me a favor did. Anyway, I was about to go check the place out, and I want to do it alone. I don’t want to involve you. But now I’m calling your crazy ass. Because I want you to have peace.” He sighed.

  Despite his speech all those months ago about her being on the outside and him having to take the shot, he had still been finding ways of touching base with her. Midian must have been working on his soft side.

  “Let’s bounce,” she told him. “You want me to pick you up?”

  “Yeah. You better. My truck isn’t really awesome camouflage right now.”

  “Trish?”

  “Yup. This time involved some neon wallpaper and quotes about men’s failures.”

  “I’ll be there in ten.”

  She armed herself and was on her way over in four minutes. When she arrived, Ryan met her in the parking lot. A blue tarp covered what had to be his truck.

  “That bad?”

  “Worse. She’s insane. Creative, but insane.” Ryan smiled as he got into the car.

  He smelled good and looked amazing—happy, and without any secret pining for her.

  “How far away?” she asked.

  “You got a full tank? About two hours. New Jersey.” He waggled his eyebrows, then looked at his phone and responded to a text. When he saw her watching he smiled. “She’s at her cousin’s birthday. Figures.”

  “Family means the world to her.” Eve navigated the back roads before merging onto the thruway.

  “Yup. I’ve noticed that. Just take this until we get to Twenty west. Then we sit on that for a while.” He put his phone away. “I have some ground rules: You cannot go in. You cannot initiate contact if we see Nicholas. My guy says this place hasn’t shown movement or body heat for the last three days.”

  “That’s some friend.” She put on the cruise control as soon as she got up to speed.

  “That’s why I took the chip to him. He’s got mad access to a lot of bullshit, but this kind of stuff takes a load of time.”

  “You clearly cashed in a large favor. I appreciate it. But there’s no way in hell I’m staying in the car.” She adjusted her rearview mirror.

  “I figured as much.”

  Her phone buzzed. When she took it out to read the text, Ryan swiped it.

  “No texting and driving. Taylor wants to know where you are. He was expecting you home. Can I tell him we’re naked together?”

  “Go ahead. I’d love to see what Midian does to your testicles in return. And have no doubt, that chick finds out about everything.” She took her phone from his hand. “I’ll leave it be for a few. He’ll be okay.” She changed lanes to go around a slower driver. “So what else do I need to know, Morales?”

  “Well, as you know, it’s likely this guy works for Vitullo. By crawling into the enemy’s nest, we might be poking the hive.”

  Eve drove faster. “I’ve been waiting to poke the hive for quite some time now,” she said.

  They made the two-hour drive in ninety minutes. They parked down the street and held hands like lovers on a stroll as they ambled past the house—a very tidy small rambler. There were lights on inside.

  “They’re on a timer,” Ryan commented as they passed. “So my guy says, anyway. The alarm will be disabled. Can you still pick a lock or should I?”

  “Do all your ex-girlfriends wear a straightjacket for fun?”

  “That’s low.” He handed her the slim tools she’d need as they crossed the street and followed her to the back door.

  She went in quickly, almost as fast as if she’d had a key. And as promised, the alarm was disabled. Ryan set down a small device that emitted a high-pitched noise.

  “Disrupts any radio frequencies and webcams,” he explained.

  “Good enough for me.” Eve began sweeping the place, taking pictures of anything out of the ordinary as Ryan headed down the hall. The inhabitant, presumably Nicholas, was obviously a neat freak.

  “Always in the bedroom. Fucking freak.” Ryan’s voice sounded disgusted from farther back in the house.

  When she entered the room, he’d found a false cover on the footboard of the bed. He had on rubber gloves and was moving the items inside around with a pen. They mostly looked like scraps of fabric with probably dried blood on them. Souvenirs. Trophies.

  Eve felt her world implode as she saw her father’s watch among the treasures. Without thinking, she reached for it. Ryan went to stop her, but pulled back when she looked him in the eyes.

  She pulled out the watch and held it up. Inscribed on the back was her message to him: Love always, Your Girl. She held it to her chest, close to her heart.

  Ryan photographed the remaining items a
nd put them all back where he’d gotten them. “I’ll have the place buttoned down tonight, and after we get a warrant, we’ll get forensics in to find out what we’re looking at here.”

  Eve saw that the ridge that held the glass in place over the watch’s face had a deep brown stain in it. She put the watch on and silently dared Ryan to tell her to take it off.

  He shook his head. “You keep that. That’s okay.”

  It wasn’t okay, but she got that he was breaking a rule for her now. Waiting in the entry, she watched him search the rest of the apartment, which was neat and together. That terrified her even more. Only a mind this set on organization could be so well-versed in torture. Experiencing that first hand was the last thing she and her father had in common. This had to be Nicholas. She’d felt his particular talent before. Her right hand shook a bit. It might be forever impossible to think of her father without shuddering as she remembered his end.

  “I need some air.” She left the way they’d come in and went to the front porch. Stupid. She was making a spectacle of herself, or at least that’s how it felt.

  The mailbox was nailed to the house by the front door. She lifted the lid and saw junk mail. After sorting through it quickly, noting that it was all addressed to Nicholas Rodgers or Occupant, she was about to set it back inside when an envelope fell out from between the flyers. It was from the DMV. She quickly folded it over twice and stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans.

  Just then Ryan signaled to her from the shrubs between this property and the next. “You okay?” He gave her a harsh look.

  “No.” But she left the porch to take his arm, and they continued their evening as lovers on a stroll.

  “We’ll get information from this place,” he told her as they returned to the car. “I’m sure of it.”

  Nodding, she unlocked the doors, but she was quiet all the way home. She dropped Ryan off without so much as a good-bye.

  By the time she got to her house she had a text from him:

  I’m going to need that watch after all.

  I’ll make sure you get it back.

  Sitting in the car in the driveway, she typed back:.

  Why

  Sent the locals there to watch the house,

  and they recognized the address.

  4-alarm fire in progress.

  It’s all going to be gone.

  I’ll bag this in a zip

  and get it to you tomorrow.

  Keep it clean. It’s our only chance now.

  K

  She walked slowly up to the house, but Beckett opened the door before she could get her key in. G stood next to him, barking his butt off. She moved past them both and put the watch as carefully as she could into a Ziploc bag. After handing the bag to Beckett, she reached down and picked up G. He finally settled after licking her face.

  “Where’d you get this?” Beckett asked.

  She told him the story and then asked what she had to: “Was that one you?”

  “The house? No. We haven’t had need for a burn in over a month. Someone was either onto you or it was a wild coincidence.” He set the bag down and pulled her and his dog to his chest. “The pictures will be inadmissible, and probably this too. But maybe it will be enough to help them give some people closure.”

  “What is it?” Eve felt like he wasn’t telling her something.

  “Nothing. I just hate that you went without me,” he said. “Take me next time. I’m worth shit, you know.” He kissed her lips.

  She nodded. The envelope in her back pocket felt like it was screaming at her.

  “Let’s go upstairs. You want a shower?” he asked as he took G out of her hands. He dug out a chew bone for him and handed her the bagged watch before they all went up.

  The pants went in the laundry with all of her other clothes as she let Beckett’s hands do their best to take her pain away. After the shower and the inevitable sex, plus a late-night dash to the kitchen for sandwiches, she followed him into bed, but couldn’t sleep.

  “Why you tossing around so damn much, baby? You need to talk?” Beckett propped up on his elbow.

  His chest was rippled with the muscles that kept his heart safe, and gunshot wounds testifying to his lifestyle. She got out of bed and fished the envelope out of her pants.

  “You got a bill for that service, killer?” Beckett sat up completely, running a hand over his face.

  She clicked on the lamp by the bed and sat crisscross on the comforter. “I was going to handle this on my own. But I want to tell you.”

  She opened the envelope and looked at the contents before passing it to Beckett. “I got this out of Nicholas’s house before it burned down. Actually, it was in his mailbox.”

  “So it’s a registration expiration reminder in a different name. This could be helpful.” Beckett nodded. “Give me a few.” He left the room and trotted downstairs.

  Eve twisted the blanket in her hand, wondering if this had been the right move. She’d just laid down when he was in front of her again. “I got Spider on this,” he promised. “He’ll work all night. For now, let’s try to get some rest, okay?”

  She nodded, reluctantly, and focused her eyes on the watch in the Ziploc bag as she waited for sleep to come.

  Though Eve felt like she’d laid awake all night, she must have dozed, because now Beckett was shaking her awake.

  “You wanna get in the car?” he asked. “Spider sent a lead on someone who might have more information.”

  “Did he find Nicholas?”

  “Not yet, but he’s running a digital footprint on the car registered to Nicholas’s other name. He thinks he can triangulate the car’s GPS with Google Earth and satellite information and to come up with a pattern of its regular locations. But he had no estimate as to how long that might take, so this seems like our best bet in the meantime.”

  “Yeah. Let’s go.” This felt like a step in the right direction. She ran her fingers over her father’s watch on the nightstand. She’d get it to Ryan as soon as she got back.

  25

  Crappy

  Rodolfo didn’t like the safe house. Virginia was such a crappy little state. He missed his luxuries, the things he had earned. Maintaining the illusion of being dead for nearly nine months was tiresome. What good was a life without his favorite chair? And now Nicholas stood in front of him, fuming and interrupting his reading.

  “My house burned down last night. Why would you do that to me?” The man was spitting, he was so angry. Rodolfo had never seen him this off kilter.

  “We did what had to be done,” he explained calmly. “Someone went to your property last night.”

  “That’s impossible. I have it alarmed and wired.” He ran his hand through his messy hair.

  Nicholas had never been askew before, even after he’d killed people.

  “Well, like I always say, newfangled stuff doesn’t trump a good old-fashioned pair of eyes living in the house across the street. Mrs. Rio has lived in that house for over forty years. She knows when something’s not right.” Rodolfo squeezed his hand exerciser.

  “My things were there. My things.” Nicholas’s tone was bordering on disrespectful. “And if you weren’t so busy hiding and letting Taylor give it to you up the ass, maybe it would all still be there.”

  Rodolfo stopped squeezing his hand. “Mind yourself and your place.”

  Nicholas tried to fix his hair. “I apologize. It’s just that the reason I can be so good at what I do was in that house.”

  “Do I need to replace you? Is this a weakness?”

  “No. Nothing like that.”

  “Tell me about my children then. Do you have pictures?”

  Nicholas paced a bit before producing the envelope. “Here’s the latest sonogram. One girl. One boy, as you know. Healthy.”

  Rodolfo reached out with his bad hand on purpose, forcing himself to use it even though it took twice as long. The gratification was worth it. He touched the children’s profiles. Beautiful. They would h
ave their mother’s nose.

  “And the host?” he asked. He couldn’t take his eyes off of his offspring, who looked more like people than ever before.

  “A bit restless. We’re having her take it easy.” Nicholas sat down on the loveseat.

  “Restless how?” He finally shuffled to the last picture, in which the host woman stood with her shirt up, her belly distended with children. His genetically superior children.

  “She wants to go for walks. I told her it wasn’t a great idea, and she went into a bit of distress. Luckily I was able to get the doctor there in time. She’s settled now.” Nicholas crossed his ankles, seeming to get a hold of himself.

  “That’s best. It’s still too early for them to enter the world. Every day is important in utero. Good work, Nicholas.” He set the pictures down and picked up his exerciser again.

  “So do you have a job for me?” Nicholas asked. “Is it time to move on Taylor? Or are we readying more hosts? I figured you might want to get started with some more eggs.” He began tapping one foot.

  “I’d like to wait,” Rodolfo countered. “Let’s get these two into existence first. But thank you for your exuberance.” He didn’t care for this side of his man. “As far as Taylor, I want him all puffed up with his own success. He thinks I’m dead, and as far as I’m concerned, that keeps my children safer. Why else would I stay in this ridiculously under-appointed safe house?”

  “He has Primo. Doesn’t that count for anything?” Nicolas seemed to want to call some of the shots.

  “How are you so certain I’m not letting him keep Primo for my own purposes? Have you been out of the loop so long you need an adjustment?” Rodolfo pursed his lips.

  “It’s all fine. Sir, you know I trust and respect your decisions. I know how important the children are to you. Everything will work out.” Nicholas’s foot stopped tapping. “Anything else, sir?”

 
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