Saving poughkeepsie, p.30
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       Saving Poughkeepsie, p.30

           Debra Anastasia

  “Be ready,” he told Eve as the house came into view. “Make sure to confirm before the kill. We might have friendlies.”

  Just as the words left his mouth, they heard pops of gunfire in the distance—first one, and after a moment, another.

  Eve looked around wildly at the woods before announcing, “Call nine-one-one now. I’m not letting anyone die who doesn’t have to.”

  “But we don’t even know—” Beckett began.

  “Doesn’t matter,” she said firmly. “Think of Mouse, think of Livia pounding Blake’s chest in the forest. They needed help sooner.”

  Beckett nodded silently, handed her his phone, and waited as she made the call. Once she nodded, they proceeded steadily, but quietly, diving for cover when the sounds of someone moving hurriedly through the foliage drew near. They both prepared their weapons.

  Beckett took a quick look, and Eve copied him from behind her tree. A woman came into view, and she seemed to be running for her life. Beckett took a step out and waved his hands to catch her attention.

  Another gunshot rang out, and the woman fell. Eve focused on the echo, and Beckett followed her eyes to see Nicholas leaping over a fallen tree trunk. He had a snow-white bandage half-wrapped around his upper arm. It snagged a small tree and stopped his forward motion for a moment.

  While he was distracted, Beckett dove toward the woman and covered her with his body, which put him in the worst position ever. Eve stepped out from behind her tree and leveled her pistol at Nicholas. She shouted so he’d look at her. But he stood where he was and trained his gun on Beckett. She shouted again and Nicholas looked her way, a horrifying smile blooming on his face. Eve took her shot and was off in Beckett’s direction before Nicholas hit the forest floor.

  Beckett sat up to assess the woman, who was heavily pregnant. “Are there more coming?” He nodded toward the house while putting pressure on the woman’s chest.

  “Not that I see. I’ll go check on the house.”

  “No, stay here. I’ll go.” Beckett and Eve swapped places.

  Beckett walked toward the house, past Nicholas, silently hating even his dead body. Eve’s bullet had gone in right between his eyes. He hoped it brought Eve a measure of peace.

  Up at the house, the backdoor was agape, and Beckett proceeded carefully, noting a woman shot execution style in the living room, and upstairs, in a surprisingly complete hospital room setup, an older man dead as well.

  He’d picked up a pile of folders and an iPad before the gravel in the driveway announced an incoming vehicle with pops and crunches. He saw four men getting out of a black Suburban just before he slipped out the back door, and he could hear sirens in the distance. He jogged the rest of the way back out to where Eve waited with the injured woman, and together they carried her out to the Challenger, settling her into the backseat.

  “They had me. They kept me. These babies…not mine.” Alison’s eyes rolled in her head.

  Beckett put the files and iPad in the glove box and jogged back out to the road to flag down the ambulance.

  The EMTs were efficient and calm, but it was serious for Alison. As serious as it gets.

  “She said babies, so maybe it’s twins she’s carrying,” Eve told Beckett as he pulled her aside.

  “Stay with her, and no matter what, the babies are important,” he said.

  Eve made a face. “So is she.”

  “I know. I just…keep track of everything.” Beckett pushed her toward the departing gurney. “You’re her cousin as of right now.”

  “Where are you going?” She slipped some of her more obvious weapons to him. “The second address? I’m coming.”

  “No. She’s more important. I’ll tell you later. I promise.” Beckett pointed at the ambulance before getting into the driver’s seat.

  Eve climbed in to the emergency vehicle and gave him one last glance. Be careful. She didn’t need to say it. He felt it.

  Ryan held still as Midian wiped her lipstick off his cheek and from around his lips. This was among the best post-picnic desserts of all time.

  “I’m leaving it on your dick though.” She smiled. “Marking my territory and all.”

  “It’s all yours anytime you want it, kitten.” Ryan pushed her thick hair behind her ear. He loved when it peeked out and he could see the lobe. He leaned in and nibbled it while she purred. When she was really excited, she spoke Spanish, and it killed him in the very best way.

  “Come here.” He grabbed her and pulled her onto his lap. They’d parked along the river, the truck hidden from view by the thick underbrush.

  “Again? Sabes? Hay una razón por la que eres mi número uno. Eres un dios del sexo. Ahora, muéstrame el cielo.” She tossed her hair, and it covered the steering wheel.

  “Tell me what that means.” Ryan touched her lips as she translated.

  “You know? There’s a reason you’re my number one. You’re a sex god. Now, show me heaven.” She smiled against his fingers. “Seriously, considering your heritage you should be fluent.”

  “As long as you give the lessons naked, I will be.” Ryan freed himself, already tinted to match her lips, and it was easy to find her under her skirt. Soon they were rocking the truck and fogging the windows. She was so much woman. Her curves called to his hands, her tan skin and his complementing each other. They laughed a few times when they set off his horn, but they still finished within strokes of each other.

  He helped her tuck her delicious breasts back into her dress, then challenged himself to kiss her lipstick completely off. Eventually she held his happy face, smiling.

  He touched the scar on her forearm, rendered almost invisible by the tattoo there:

  “When will you tell me what this means?” He brushed her hair away from her face.

  “When you earn it.” She adjusted herself to sit on his lap instead of straddling it. She drew a heart with the tip of her finger in the fog on the window.

  He put his initials above the heart and hers below. “I’ll earn it again right now if you’re ready to go.” He tickled her until she smacked him.

  “All right, fine. It says ‘Do not mock a wound you haven’t tested.’ It’s Arabic.” She shrugged.

  He noted the location on her forearm and raised his eyebrow in concern. He’d seen cuts like that before.

  “No. Not like that. I’m a fighter, baby.” She touched the scar, seeming to remember for a moment. “It’s from when I was in high school.”

  He held his breath a little. Waiting.

  “We were on a school trip,” she began. “I was fifteen and our bus was first on the scene of an accident. A car was nearly totally crushed. Everyone was trying to help. The three adults had already passed, but there was a baby. She was less than a year old. No one could figure out how to get her out, but I broke the glass and got her. And that’s when I cut myself.”

  He kissed her. “That’s amazing. You’re amazing. Why wouldn’t you be screaming that from the rooftops? You’re a hero.”

  She sighed. “I still talk to the little girl’s grandmother from time to time. It was the worst day of her life. The whole course of her future changed, even though she doesn’t remember it. It was an honor to pull her out.”

  Ryan shook his head. “You are exceptional.”

  She rolled her eyes. “You just like the boobs.”

  “Those are wonderful. We both know that. But you, you’re something else.”

  They spent far too much time laughing and making out, and only Ryan’s police training gave him the presence of mind to look for his phone when it started to buzz.

  Midian found it on the floor mat and read the text. “It’s Eve,” she reported. “She’s using Beckett’s phone. Says she might need a cop’s help.”

  “Ahh…okay…That’s all it says?” Ryan asked, praying silently that Midian wouldn’t read anything into this.

  “Yep. But you should text her back. If she’s asking for help, she likely needs it.”

  “Thanks, baby. I kno
w you’re right,” Ryan said, in awe of her all over again. He typed for a moment, and almost instantly, Eve responded. “Ahh, this could be a mess…” he said as he read.

  “Come on, get me home,” Midian said. “I still have to iron my bullshit for work tomorrow, anyway.”

  Ryan reluctantly drove back to the center of Poughkeepsie where Midian shared an apartment with her sister. “I wasn’t even close to finished with you,” he said as she climbed up onto the truck’s running board to give him a kiss through the window.

  “You’ll get your chance,” she promised. “Keep me posted on Eve.” She winked, and he watched her walk up the steps.

  Before he left, he called the local deli and arranged for a dinner delivery for Midian and her sister. Then he texted Eve that he was on his way and set off for Virginia.

  Ryan then got on the phone with the Fallom police department, hoping they’d be a bit more forthcoming with details than Eve had been. They were happy to talk, but didn’t have much information, so they put Carly Logan—the woman they had in protective custody at his request—on the line. She unloaded everything she could think of to him on speakerphone while he drove. She explained that a man and woman had come calling that morning, asking about her friend who’d gone missing. Her friend Sonia’s specialty had been fertility before she changed careers, and she recounted a tipsy evening the two had spent together where they’d discussed their greatest regrets.

  “I think that’s why she left the profession,” Carly said. “What she’d done felt wrong. But it was years and years ago. A young woman had been in a car crash and lost her baby, lost her husband or boyfriend or whatever, and she still hadn’t regained consciousness. Sonia said she’d had the hugest crush on the surgeon involved with the case. So when she found him struggling to hold onto his decorum in the break room, when he’d shared his fears with her, she went out of her way to help him.”

  Ryan paid the toll quickly, trying to get the window back up to block out the road noise.

  “God, that night is a little fuzzy, but I remember she was still torn up about it, so many years later. I kind of thought it had been a brave choice.”

  “What do you mean?” Ryan tried to move the conversation along.

  “Apparently, the girl in the accident was his daughter. And her uterus was badly damaged, so she wasn’t going to be able to have kids anymore. It had to come out. The surgeon was asking her what could be done, and Sonia finally suggested freezing some ovary tissue. She wasn’t even certain anything could be done with it, but it was their best shot so that someday, if the girl chose to, she could still have babies. The surgeon wanted to give his daughter the chance, so Sonia guided him through what to do while the girl was still unconscious. Sonia had been storing the tissue for the doctor all this time, even though she was living here. A few years ago she told me a doctor in Belgium had successfully extracted mature eggs from a previously frozen ovary. She’d wondered about calling the surgeon to tell him. Don’t know if she ever did.”

  Jesus. “Did she tell you the surgeon’s name?” Ryan held his breath as he listened.

  “She just called him Ted. Anyway, that’s all I know about her worst secrets. I feel awful sharing them with you.” Carly sounded scared.

  “You know what? Consider me your priest right now. The information you just provided might help someone else.” He found a piece of gum in the cup holder, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth. “Do you know where she was keeping the tissue?”

  “Well, she never said. But there’s only one place in town. That’s where she worked before she moved on to real estate.” Carly spoke to someone else in the room, then to Ryan. “When can I go home?”

  “Soon. I just have to double-check that the person who came to your house is under control,” he told her. “Everything’s going to be okay.” Ryan was about to hang up when Carly dropped her voice to a whisper.

  “The woman, Eve, she really protected me.”

  “She’s good at what she does,” Ryan conceded.

  “Is she okay?”

  “Well, she might be one of the people your information is helping. Thank you for being so forthcoming. I’ll get back with you soon.” He ended the call and voice-commanded his phone contact Beckett’s phone next. But the call was sent to voice mail. “Cue me in when you get this,” he told Eve. “Text…whatever.” He hung up again and had a short conversation with Midian, still driving as fast as he could to Virginia while she got started researching fertility clinics in Fallom, Virginia.

  What the hell kind of mess had Eve’s father created? And what new mess had been left by Eve and Taylor this morning?

  Rodolfo didn’t like how fast Vin drove. And the boy kept humming. It was taking everything in him not to hit the kid in the back of the head to get him to stop. He looked out the window. He could see his own reflection as they bounced to another safe house in another state. One code red alert after another. What the fuck had happened this time? What the fuck had his life become?

  Vin also looked at his goddamn phone while he was driving—and then he was all over the freaking road.

  “Drive!” Rodolfo roared.

  “Sorry, sir. Things have gone to shit. Bonds just checked it out to confirm. Nicholas is dead. The doctor. The nurse. The girl is gone. He’s headed to the hospital to see what he can see.”

  “Well, what the hell happened?” Rodolfo could feel his left side locking up again.

  “Shoot out. Someone found ’em. Sorry.” Vin put his phone away.

  “Tell the crew down there to clean that scene. And until I know where my babies are, no one sleeps. Damn it!” Rodolfo steadied himself with his right hand. If he had to take the babies out of the damn woman himself, he was getting those children. “Have them do a sweep at the clinic too. I want the rest of the damn eggs.”

  He wanted the babies. If this batch had been ruined there’d be hell to pay, but he’d better damn well still have additional chances. He needed a whole new setup now that Nicholas was dead. That stupid sycophant had been a crafty bastard. And giving him little “presents” along the way had kept him tied in place and loyal like a dog on a leash.

  This was the worst possible way for things to go. He should’ve taken Taylor down right after the fire. He’d just thought staying under the radar was the best way to get the babies born. But now this disaster, plus he was down a good portion of his men, and Taylor had made quite a bit of progress screwing up the drug-running lines he’d helped himself to. I mean, really, those were the least that prick Sevan Harmon owed him.

  The minute he was back in Jersey again, he was putting Poughkeepsie under attack, old school. But first, he needed that pregnant girl under his control again.



  Eve stood outside the operating room, waiting. She’d passed herself off as Alison’s cousin, as Beckett suggested, so she’d been allowed to stay. Spider forwarded her information on the missing person he believed this injured woman might be. Her name and description matched, and apparently her husband, Flint, had been married before. Based on letters found at their home, police believed he was avoiding alimony payments to an ex-wife by simply disappearing. Eve rolled her eyes at that one. Letters left behind? How convenient. Vitullo’s organization was home to at least a couple master forgers.

  But what was the end game here? What could Rodolfo have wanted with this poor woman and her babies? Fuck him. Eve felt herself harden, but she channeled her energy toward doing what needed to be done right now. There was family to be notified.

  A nurse came out to speak with Eve. “Did you get a hold of your family? We do need those answers as soon as possible.”

  “Still waiting on them,” Eve lied. The hospital needed to know if Alison was allergic to anything, if she was on any medicine.

  “I have some really unfortunate news,” the nurse continued. “Despite our every effort, the mom’s vitals aren’t looking great. Do you know what life-sustaining measures she would be com
fortable with in circumstance such as this?” The nurse touched Eve’s arm. “We’ll take her into surgery soon, though, so don’t give up hope.”

  “The babies?” Eve had a horrible flashback to asking about her child so many years ago.

  “As far as we can tell, they’re okay. Heart rates are good, and they’re moving around. For now we are stabilizing Mom. But she’s not responding well. It’s very important that we have her immediate family here as soon as possible.” The nurse nodded at the phone in Eve’s hand.

  “Of course. I’ll try again and tell them it’s urgent.” Eve looked at Beckett’s phone as a text rolled in from…Beckett. He always kept a disposable phone in his glove box.

  Oth#er Hou?se emptyp


  Ho3ws Alison&?

  This woman’s fate was out of their hands. Eve could picture herself in a similar bed. She knew how important it had been to have her father there making decisions for her.

  I’m calling her family.

  She might not make it.

  Just wait for me, please?

  The whole thing was spelled correctly, which meant he was concentrating.

  She texted back:

  How long?

  5 min

  I’ll find the names and numbers,

  and if you aren’t here soon, I’m calling them.

  Or if something goes wrong.

  I really want to get in touch with them.

  It’s important.

  He didn’t respond. They had tracks to cover. This girl could get police protection. Eve didn’t have to be standing here. As much as it sucked, their staying around would create problems left and right. Yet she couldn’t have it any other way. Not this time.

  After a bit of Google searching, she jotted down the home number for the woman’s parents. She’d moved backward in time until she found Flint and Alison’s wedding announcement in the local paper.

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