Return to poughkeepsie, p.30
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.30

           Debra Anastasia

  “I like when you’re selfish.” Kyle nodded as the painkillers kicked in, and she relaxed in his arms. She was going to try harder to think positive. She’d force herself if she had to.

  The sun was sinking, and Beckett was almost finished driving back to Poughkeepsie. He slurped a Red Bull and did his best to stay awake. Gandhi, however, snored so loud he just about drowned out the music. The damn dog had been so happy to see him, it was hilarious. He’d headed at him like a freshly shot cannon ball and hit him in the nuts at a hundred miles an hour. He’d been tempted to leave the dog with Vere, but damn it if he wasn’t attached to his ugly mug. His phone rang as he merged onto the New York State Throughway. It was a douchebag.

  “What?” Beckett put the phone on speaker.

  “Boss, I just heard from Shark. You remember him?” This was Harris, kind of a shifty douchebag.

  “Barely.” Beckett petted G’s head.

  “Yeah, well, he just called and wanted me to get a message to you. It’s not good fucking news.” Harris sounded nervous.

  “Waiting.” Beckett’s knuckles went white. Shark was an asshole from back in the day—had his dick in every pot he could to stir it. He’d never liked or trusted him.

  “Eve killed Mary Ellen Vitullo.”

  “Shit.” Beckett nearly swerved off the road. “Where’s the body?” He hated these kinds of conversations on cell phones, but he needed to know how to cover Eve’s ass.

  “That’s the thing. The body’s at Mary Ellen’s house. She just murdered her way into the woman’s room and slashed her throat. The woman’s father, Rodolfo, he’s got Eve now. She just waited there. Shark forwarded the security tape to me. I’ll send it to your phone.” The douchebag paused.

  “Rodolfo has her?” Beckett was hoping he’d heard wrong.

  “That’s what Shark said. They’re still at the house. If I hadn’t seen the video, I’d never believe she’d get caught like that.”

  “Okay, get me a crew with wheels and the nicest fucking suit you can find. Get Milton on it.” He cast a glance at Gandhi. He’d have to leave the dog with one of his brothers. No way he’d get his pooch involved with this shit. Sucked. He wanted to show him off to Eve. After a quick texting back and forth, Cole was the first taker. Fortunately they were at a dog-friendly hotel.

  Rodolfo Vitullo was a fucking legend. The fact that the man was in his eighties and still going strong—and not in prison—was a testament to how ridiculous he was at the weapons business. If something was likely to irritate that man, you left that shit alone.

  Beckett made some more calls and soon enough he was back where he’d started—barely twelve hours after he’d left. Despite the fact that it made him queasy, he called John McHugh, who sounded somewhere between disgusted and intrigued when he answered the phone.

  “All the victims have been recovered, as near as we can tell. And we now have a very nice, long list of people of interest.” McHugh’s voice was icy. Beckett knew the man hated him, and he respected that. “And I’m grateful for Ryan’s retrieval,” McHugh added. “He’s a good officer.”

  “Yeah, that was all Eve. She wouldn’t leave without him. Insisted on it.” Beckett waited for some sounds of surprise, but it seemed McHugh had already processed that Eve was more than she seemed. “Speaking of Eve, she’s currently an unwilling visitor of Roldolfo Vitullo’s at Mary Ellen Vitullo’s compound in Somers. At least, that’s the intel I can gather so far.”

  “You don’t say. Rodolfo’s a coward and a monster.” Judging from the clicking, McHugh was pulling up files. “So are you filing a missing person’s report? Do you want to come in and report it as a kidnapping?”

  Beckett sighed. “No offense, sir, but no one in your department is going to be able to help her. I just wanted to let you know where I am and what I’m doing. As of now, my plan is to stop in over there. I’ve got nothing after that.” Beckett petted the dog again as he drove toward the gas station where he’d agreed to meet Cole.

  “Well, I’m giving you as much space as I can, but this can’t last forever, Taylor.” McHugh sighed heavily into the phone. “And I’ll have to tell my contacts in Somers what’s happening. Their move is their call, but I think it’s good to have the police on Vitullo.”

  “He’s probably got more cops on the payroll than you do. But whatever you think. I’m getting Eve out no matter what. I know your concern is for your girls, but resolving this situation increases everyone’s chance at a bright future. And I can’t say I won’t blow shit up.” Beckett put the car in park and clipped a leash on Gandhi. The dog seemed reluctant to get out. There was silence on the other end of the phone. Beckett understood. The man couldn’t condone anything he was planning. Kyle and Cole pulled in as Beckett thanked McHugh—or rather the continued silence where McHugh had been—and hung up.

  Beckett strolled over Cole’s car, and Kyle was out the door in a shot. Gandhi was too surprised to even bark as the redhead wrapped Beckett in a hug. He kept an arm around her as Cole got down to let Gandhi sniff his hand.

  “This dog is so ugly.” Cole laughed.

  “What happened to all God’s creatures and all that shit?” Beckett held up his arm again. He knew they’d done it too much in the last handful of hours, but damn it, seeing these faces just made Beckett need to acknowledge his family.

  Cole stood and wrapped his arm around Beckett’s, patting his shoulder solidly. Kyle got low so she could get to know the dog.

  “So, it’s cool for you guys to watch him? I’ve got his food in the trunk. He’s super easygoing. Loves belly rubs.” Beckett slapped Cole on the back again and went to retrieve the food.

  “Why can’t he stay with you? You afraid to have something prettier than you in the car?” Kyle stroked G from head to tail.

  “Eve’s in trouble. You got any prayers left in you, brother?” Beckett handed the bag of food to Cole.

  “Yeah. She all right?” Cole transferred the bag to his backseat.

  “Just pray. Having this guy’s ugly mug taken care of was last on my list. Now I gotta fill up the tank and run. I’ll keep you posted. Lay low if you can. Keep an eye on those kids, your sister and my brothers, okay, Fairy Princess?” Beckett held open the old-man car’s door for Kyle and picked up his dog. He petted him and kissed his crazy face before putting him on Kyle’s lap. G immediately tried to kiss her face.

  “You flirt,” he chastised his dog.

  Kyle laughed and rolled down her window. “Be careful and bring her back.”

  “No worries. I got this.” Beckett thanked his brother and got into his car. He couldn’t waste another second getting to Eve.

  After six minutes of erratic driving, he pulled into his old parking lot. Waiting next to a nondescript white van were three well-dressed and impressively armed douchebags. Beckett stripped and changed into the Italian suit Milton had selected, stepping into his shoes while his men piled in the van. He tied his shoes and stood to assess their faces. They were decent douchebags—hungry for power and not afraid to kill. He was lucky to get them on short notice.

  “Okay, anyone find out shit?” Beckett slipped the tie around his neck and began to do it up.

  After the brief rundown, he’d learned that Eve was taken to Rodolfo’s guesthouse on the premises, and they were treating her like the motherfucking kick-ass assassin she was. He pulled out his phone and played the surveillance camera footage. The scenes were spliced together into a flawless Eve show. One after another she eliminated her obstacles, culminating in the poisoning of the last doorman. Then after a brief chat, she sliced Mary Ellen’s throat.

  He hit pause and looked at Eve’s face right after the murders were complete. The vacancy there was chilling. The douchebags, however, were complimentary, asking to see the video again. If killing were choreography, Eve was Bob Fosse.

  “Get me someone who’s done business with Vitullo before. I’ve stayed out of his crotchety old hair until now.” The guys with him began making calls and texting. “A
nd one of you ride with me. We gotta move.”

  Dell O’Neal slid in next to him in the Challenger and kept the line of communication open with the van. Dell was out of jail and hungry, but Beckett knew he was loyal. He’d been around five years ago, and Milton had vouched for him. Dell handed him a burner phone. Beckett made a quick phone call to assbag Sevan Harmon’s organization to tighten up the freaking mental ammunition he was preparing. By the time they pulled up to the guesthouse, which really was just another fucking mansion behind the one Mary Ellen had lived in, Beckett knew at least some of what Sevan knew, and he had a few tricks up his sleeve.

  The driver hit the intercom, and Beckett introduced himself to the video camera. “Beckett Taylor. Make sure your gates can open wide enough to fit my giant balls. You’re torturing a woman in there who’s mine.”

  He sat back and was pleasantly surprised when they were buzzed through.

  “Ritzy-titzy Somers likes us, boys. You ready to ride again?” Beckett heard the roar from the van through O’Neal’s phone.

  “Hell yeah.”

  “Giddy up.”

  “Nuts of Wrath!”

  As they pulled up at the guesthouse, an army of blood soldiers stood waiting.

  “We’re not expecting you.”

  Beckett straightened his tie and stepped out of the car. “No one does. You’ve got one of my assets in there, and I need her back.”

  “You’ll excuse us if we’re unmoved to help. We recently had a death in the family.” The man’s eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses.

  “You tell Rodolfo I helped expedite the death in your motherfucking family. And if he doesn’t talk to me right now, I’m going to blow his ass cheeks wide open. Anywhere he’s ever taken a shit will be razed to the ground.”

  Beckett waited as the goons spoke into their earpieces.

  “Follow me—just you, though.” The one who appeared to be in charge frisked Beckett and, piece by piece, pulled out an almost hilarious amount of weaponry. It was all for show, though. Beckett had known he would be walking in barehanded.

  “Boys, stay put. I’ll be in touch.” He saluted the douches and followed the guard inside.

  After meandering deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of the guesthouse, Beckett finally found himself in front of a metal door. He settled his mind, knowing he could see just about anything on the other side. To get them out of here alive, he’d have to wear his game face. No matter what.

  The door swung open, and he forced himself to search for Rodolfo, not Eve. Every second, every breath was going to be weighed and measured. He met Rodolfo’s thickly glazed eyes. Crinkly old bastard. Eve was tied to a chair and, based on his peripheral vision, looked alive.

  “Rodolfo.” Beckett nodded. “I’m here to collect my weapon.”

  Eve offered a barking laugh. “I don’t even know him. Kick him out.” Her voice was harsh and ragged, like she’d been through hell.

  “Beckett Taylor, please come in. Quite the reputation you once had. Such promise until you decided to nancy out. I thought you were dead. That would’ve been braver.” Rodolfo shook his head.

  “Congratulations on the death of your daughter.” Beckett tipped his hat at the old man.

  “Cut out his tongue.” Rodolfo pointed at Beckett with his cane. “His common sense must have fallen off. It’s the only remedy.”

  The man who’d walked him in pulled a switchblade, and Beckett disarmed him without looking. “Homeslice, put this away before you hurt someone.” Beckett closed the blade and handed it back to the attacker handle first.

  “You do know you’re surrounded.” Rodolfo nodded at his men, who pulled out handguns.

  Beckett shook his head. “Do you think I’m stupid enough to waltz in here without insurance? You’re seconds away from getting bombed like a college freshman.”

  “I hear no helicopters, homeslice.” Rodolfo raised an eyebrow. “I’m calling your bluff.”

  Now that he’d stepped completely into the room, Beckett could see a man lying on the floor, holding what looked like the devil’s dildo, which plugged into the wall. There was a slight electric crackle, and the body twitched—the man was frying on the floor.

  “He try to steal your ass toy, Rodolfo?” Beckett nodded at the electrocuted man as he strolled casually toward Eve.

  “No. He’s just warming it up for you. Too bad your ladyfriend here didn’t get to enjoy it.” Rodolfo let out a forced cackle. His men joined in with laughter.

  “That’s how you treat the people who work for you? That’s shit. My men know where they stand with me.” Beckett finally let his eyes meet Eve’s.

  She was pure fury. Thank fuck. Because that shit the guy was flopping around on the floor with was ancient craziness. And they’d had her a long damn time. Fury meant she was still home.

  “Okay, cut the bullshit.” Rodolfo was done humoring him. “Why are you here, baby mobster. Tell me your story before I make it so you can tell no more.”

  “I ordered the hit on your daughter. I saw what you couldn’t. She was out of control.”

  “That’s a lie, and I know my daughter better than anyone. You think you get to be eighty without seeing every trick in the book? No matter what you tell me, I’ll know the truth. You’re here because you love this girl. You want to save her.” Rodolfo took a pistol from the table and hobbled over to Eve. He held the gun to her temple. “You cannot.”

  She turned her head, positioning the gun on her forehead instead. “Do it.”

  Beckett’s stomach dropped. “You’re right. I do love her. More than you loved your daughter.”

  “And you know this how?” Rodolfo threw up the hand not holding the gun.

  “Because this lady’s still breathing. Your rage should have overcome you. You knew Mary Ellen was rotten. Do any of your kids love you? Would Primo change your shitty diaper if you didn’t have a dime?” Beckett stepped closer.

  “You tire me.” Rodolfo turned his attention back to Eve. “Shame. You are talented.”

  “I know about Sevan Harmon.” Beckett took his hat off.

  “Speak more.” Rodolfo released the safety on the gun.

  “I’ve had some dealings with him—helped him out a bit here and there, back in the day. I’m sure you’re aware that Poughkeepsie is essential to his operation.” Beckett kept his voice even, although inside his entire being was made of jelly.

  Eve grinned at Rodolfo and his gun. “Your daughter was a vapid asshole, and she gave a bunch of your money away. I enjoyed killing her.”

  Beckett threw his hat at Eve. “Shut up. Seriously. I’m here to pledge my allegiance to this old fart so you can leave. Don’t make it worse.”

  Rodolfo stood silent for so long, Beckett was afraid he’d fallen asleep. Finally the old man spoke. “What exactly is it you think you have to offer me?”

  “I understand your accounts are not exactly in order. Your daughter and Sevan misplaced some money, it seems.”

  “Yes, thank you for reminding me of that. But I don’t believe insolvency is on the horizon. It’s nothing, truly. And I still fail to see your relevance.”

  “If the money were gone, that might be true,” Beckett countered, his voice like honey. “But it’s still there. You just can’t get to it. And you’ve got Sevan Harmon in your business until this matter is resolved. Perhaps I could persuade him to help you clear things up.”

  Rodolfo again said nothing for a very long while. Beckett swore he could hear himself sweating.

  “You will wear my brand,” Rodolfo finally announced. “Get the brand, Boston.” He put the safety back on the gun and nodded toward Eve. “This weapon you have, she’s unpredictable. Can you keep her under control?” Rodolfo waved Boston back in and the man set up his tools: a blowtorch and million-year-old iron brand.

  “She’ll listen to me, but she leaves.” Beckett had no idea if Rodolfo would let her live. This whole scene was a crapshoot.

  “She leaves, but you do not.” Rodolfo cou
ntered. “I need to discern whether you actually have any value. I fear I already know the answer.” He took the heated brand from Boston. “Hold out your arm.”

  Beckett braced himself, and the old man pressed the red-hot metal to the skin just below his Sorry tattoo.

  When Rodolfo pulled it off, Boston followed with a handful of salt. Beckett didn’t flinch, but his balls crawled into his stomach. He looked into Eve’s blue eyes. For her he would die. For her he would take any pain. Boston followed the salt with lemon juice straight from a fresh-cut wedge. When the searing aggravation was completed, Beckett looked at his arm. Although bloody, he could make out the shape—some sort of twirly letter V, kind of like a tree.

  Rodolfo nodded at his men. “Bring him in tomorrow after I’ve had some sleep. I’m going to bed.”

  The old man hobbled out the door, and all guns remained trained on Eve, except for Boston’s, which honed in on Beckett. A guard stepped over and sawed through the plastic on Eve’s ankles.

  She stood with her hands still bound and refused to look at Beckett.

  “Hey!” he called. “She gets to take my car. And I want to see her get in it. I need to know you let her leave with my men.”

  The guards conferred among themselves and finally came to agreement. One of them outfitted Beckett with his own set of tight plastic bracelets and relieved him of his car keys. Under heavy guard, they let him walk by Eve’s side until she went out the front door. They cut her wrists free and handed her the keys skittishly, moving away from her as quickly as possible as if she might explode.

  His men looked shocked when she came carefully down the steps and sat in the Challenger.

  “I’m staying. Take her home.” Milton nodded, and Beckett could feel Eve’s intense glare on his back as he turned and went back into the house. Finally he heard the gravel kicking up as his car and the van pulled away.



  HE HADN’T BEEN ABLE TO SLEEP for two nights now, and they weren’t letting him come in to work, so while Ryan waited for a call from McHugh about Eve, about Beckett Taylor, about anything, he made a big pile of all the weirdness Trish had brought into his apartment and Windex-ed the lipstick off the mirrors.


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