Return to poughkeepsie, p.31
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.31

           Debra Anastasia
 

  He groaned when the intercom buzzer sounded—what the hell time was it, anyway? Not even eight a.m. He ambled over and paused for a deep breath before he hit the button. “Trish, you’re an insane cow udder. Go away. Actually, you know what? Never mind, I’m coming down. I want my damn key.”

  Ryan yanked open the door, but instead of him walking out, Eve walked in, blood all over her hands.

  “Sorry, I came up when someone opened the door. I’m sorry I came here.” She staggered a bit, and Ryan grabbed her.

  “Whoa. Wait, what the hell happened?” He eased her inside and onto his couch. He reached for one of her hands, and she hissed. Her wounds completely encircled her wrists.

  “Jesus. We need to take you to the hospital. Let’s go.”

  She shook her head. “I just need to bandage them up. I’m going to be fine. I—I can’t go to the hospital. My dad works there…I’m undercover…this is a huge mess…Please. I just need a few minutes.”

  “Holy shit.” Ryan waited for more of a response. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.” Ryan pointed at her. She looked like crap. Her face was gray.

  “Don’t worry, copper. Even you could catch me if I tried to run now. You do what you gotta do.” She attempted a smile.

  He slammed the front door behind him and double-timed it downstairs, returning with the first aid kit from his truck. It was the expensive one from Target, and he hoped to hell it had what he needed. Her eyes were closed when he returned.

  He’d never seen her so…unaware. Broken. He cleared his throat, and she opened one eye. He knew some basic first aid, but he didn’t like the look of the deep wounds in her wrists.

  “Can you feel your fingers?” He wet a paper towel and sat next to her.

  “I’ve got swelling and nerve damage. It’ll be fine.”

  “You sound like a lady with a lot of handcuff experience.”

  She didn’t respond. He took her right hand and set it on his lap. He gently wiped as much of the blood as he could from the wound before slathering her wrist with antibiotic cream and winding gauze into place. He repeated this process with her left wrist.

  “Are you hurt anywhere else?” He looked at her skeptically.

  “Nothing that’ll kill me.” She closed her eyes again. “Do you need me to leave? I don’t have a car. They were going to drop me off at my dad’s, but I didn’t want to burden him with this.”

  “Ahh…okay…” Ryan couldn’t come up with anything intelligent to say, and he had even less idea what to do.

  “How are you feeling? Were the ribs broken?” She looked him up and down.

  “I’m fine.” Ryan replied dismissively.

  “That’s good. Your face looks better. Can I shower?” Eve pulled herself to standing.

  “Well, that’ll get your bandages wet.”

  “It’ssssss okay.” Eve slurred a bit, but she moved determinedly down the hall.

  “Listen, I don’t have towels at the moment, so there’s some of my clean laundry in there…” Ryan listened for a reply, but heard none, just the water starting in the shower.

  He sat for a moment, paralyzed, before his police protocol kicked him in the ass. He pulled out his phone and dialed his boss.

  “McHugh,” he answered gruffly.

  “Captain, I have Eve Hartt here at my place. She looks like shit, but she’s safe. I’m not sure where she came from or what’s happened.” Ryan waited for more direction.

  “That’s good. Ahh, for now listen to what she says and report back. She’s been with the Vitullos, I believe.” McHugh sounded distracted. “I haven’t heard from Taylor, so I’d really like the know what the hell he’s up to.”

  “Okay, of course, sir. I’ll be in touch.” Ryan was about to ask whether he should contact Eve’s father—or the hospital—when the captain hung up.

  He threw the phone on the dresser and straightened up his place some more, cursing Trish for stealing all his crap—again. He didn’t even have sheets now, or a blanket to cover her Sharpie message on his mattress. After it’d been a stupid long time, he knocked on the bathroom door. Everything he’d ever learned about women told him you never, ever open the bathroom door on them. Ever. So he waited a bit longer. The steam from inside the room seeped under the door.

  Finally, he tested the knob. It turned easily. She hadn’t locked it. He opened it a crack and called her name a few times. No response. His heart leapt to his throat when he saw her curled up naked in his tub, water pounding down on top of her. He twisted the knob to the off position and climbed in, quickly confirming that she was breathing.

  Her body was bruised in strategically horrible places. And it looked like she’d been Tasered quite a few goddamn times. His anger got the best of him for a few seconds. In repose she looked so serene, so peaceful. But he knew she was like a tranquilized panther. Carefully he positioned himself and lifted her, shocked at how heavy she was. Pure muscle. His pants tightened, and he cursed his body’s reaction. She was helpless, for fuck’s sake. She was also slippery, and he had to concentrate.

  Her eyes fluttered open. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled before closing her eyes again. She was fucking exhausted.

  After laying her on his bed, he examined her injuries. Someone had Tasered the crap out of her. All over her body: her breasts, her stomach, the bottoms of her feet. Jesus. He’d needed a nap after one shot from one of those things as a rookie. And here she’d dragged herself all the way to his place. Her wrist wounds were bleeding through the sopping wet bandages, and now he noticed her ankles didn’t look so good either. He gently covered her with a brown robe his mother had bought him for Christmas, but he never wore.

  He pushed her wet hair out of her face and spread it out on the mattress to dry. He removed the bandages, and she stirred a bit, but didn’t fully wake. He reapplied the cream and used the rest of what the Target first aid kit had to offer. While Ryan made her a pillow out of a sweatshirt, he remembered the prescription painkillers he’d gotten for strained back muscles a few months ago. They’d been some strong shit. He found them under the sink and grabbed a water bottle.

  It took a lot to rouse her, but she took the pill and swallowed it without asking what it was, thanking him before falling asleep in his arms.

  He held her like that for a while—to make sure the pill didn’t fucking kill her. He felt a powerful need to protect her while she was unconscious. She was so goddamn capable when she was awake. He wondered if she ever let her mind completely turn off. Finally able to stare at her unabashedly, he admired her beauty. When she was awake, her attractiveness was like a costume—seemed like it pissed her off that men were drawn to her. But like this? Christ. Men would fight wars over this kind of gorgeous.

  Ryan stroked her hair, trying to help it dry. His buzzer sounded. Hating to do it, he lay Eve back on the mattress.

  “Yeah?” He really hoped it wasn’t Trish this time.

  “This is Ted Hartt. You have my daughter?” Dr. Hartt sounded frantic down below.

  He hit the buzzer and opened his apartment door, waiting. After a few moments the elevator dinged, and Eve’s father practically burst through the doors.

  “McHugh told me she was here. Is she hurt?” He pushed into the apartment.

  “Yes, sir. But she says she’ll live.” It sounded so hollow, repeating Eve’s lame-ass diagnoses to her doctor father.

  Sure enough, he gave Ryan a withering look, so he just took him to the bedroom. Ryan stood in the doorway while Dr. Hartt examined his daughter. He gently prodded her awake.

  Eve groaned but allowed her father to look in her eyes and mouth.

  “What the hell happened, Eve?” He adjusted the bandages and noted the Taser marks.

  “I fell.” Eve struggled to keep her eyelids open. “And I can’t go to the hospital. You know how that is.”

  Her father shook his head. “Is she on anything?” He lifted the pill bottle from the nightstand.

  “I gave her one of those.” Ryan con
firmed. He was second-guessing the shit out of himself now.

  “She was tortured. Tortured.” Dr. Hartt dug through his bag some more before finding an injectable drug. “This will help with the swelling,” he said more to himself than to Ryan.

  “Thanks for coming. She wanted to stay here…is that an option?” Ryan hated to press, her father was still reeling.

  “Yes. At least until I’m out of work tonight.” He touched Eve’s face gently. “Baby girl, what have you gotten yourself into?”

  Eve was not conscious enough to answer.

  “Listen, you have a few minutes? Or are you leaving?” Ryan put his feet in shoes.

  “I can stay for an hour or so, then I have to get back for surgery, assuming she’s stable.” Dr. Hartt’s eyes never left Eve.

  “Let me run to the store and grab her some clothes, and some blankets and stuff. Anything else I should get? You need anything?” He put his wallet in his pocket.

  Her dad wrote a list of things on the back of a drug advertisement pad he had in his bag. “Get these things.”

  Ryan left in a hurry and went to Target. Four hundred and fifty dollars later, his cart looked like he was getting married to Martha Stewart. He had the essential medical stuff at the bottom, then clothes for Eve, then blankets and pillows and towels out the ying-yang.

  He made two trips up and down, piling the things outside his door. Dr. Hartt opened his door before he could insert the key after the last trip.

  “I have to go. They’ve paged me twice. I’ll check in as soon as my surgery is over. Here are the phone numbers I can be reached at, but if there’s anything, anything at all, you call the ambulance. I don’t care what she says.”

  “Of course, sir. Sure thing.” Ryan nodded vigorously as the man left.

  After Dr. Hartt went out, Ryan dragged all the stuff into the apartment. First he selected some clothes and set them near the bed for Eve. When she woke, she could put them on. Maybe his huge case of perma-boner would settle down when his dick knew she had clothes on. He ripped the tags off the towels and tucked them into the cabinet in the bathroom. All his new bedding was ready for the bed as soon as it was empty.

  He sat at his desk and tried to make himself useful, reviewing case files and looking again at the video on his phone. He made notes about everything he’d seen that might possibly be helpful. The hours ticked by until mid-afternoon, when a woman’s shriek and a loud thump sent Ryan running into his bedroom.

  Trish—dressed in a teddy and an open trench coat—was on the floor with her eyes bugging out and her lips turning blue. Naked Eve had her pinned to the floor. His perma-boner took off like a rocket. Again.

  “Trish! What the hell are you doing here?” He grabbed the discarded robe and pulled gently on Eve’s shoulder until she released her grip on Trish’s neck.

  Eve staggered a bit, eyes hazy. Ryan slipped the robe over her shoulders. She put it on.

  “She’s wearing your mother’s dookie-colored robe?” Trish scrambled to her feet, gasping. “You hate that thing!”

  “How did you get in here?” Ryan looked at the open window. “Did you climb up the escape? You are an insane person.”

  “You’re sleeping with slutty whores? I’m here to get my stuff.” Trish stomped into the living room as Eve leaned against his bedroom wall. “I heard all over town you’ve been running around with a tramp.”

  She came back into the bedroom. “After I leave, Ryan, you’ll never have another woman like me.”

  Eve’s hand was so quick around Trish’s neck she was like a rattlesnake. “Drop it.” Trish hesitated, and Ryan watched as Eve tightened her hold, inching her thumb closer to Trish’s ear. “Take off the trench coat too.”

  Trish opened her mouth with indignation before dropping the bedding he’d just bought. When she made no move with the coat, Eve pulled her into a restraint that was much more complicated than she made it look. “Take off your trench coat.”

  It wasn’t what she said, it was the way she said it—steel in her voice. The energy coming off of her was so, so dangerous.

  Even irrational Trish heard the warning in the words. She slipped off the coat.

  “Now you’re going to leave the way you came.” Eve pushed Trish toward the window.

  Trish gave Ryan a look. “This is your new girlfriend? She’s charming.”

  Eve propped herself against the wall again and waited.

  Ryan shrugged and pointed to the window.

  “I can’t believe this. I’m suing.” Trish climbed back out the window, heels clicking against the metal while she proceeded to curse a blue streak.

  Ryan smiled a little before retrieving the coat from the floor and tossing it out the window. “Leave my truck alone, Trish. Or I’ll sic my girlfriend on you.”

  He turned as Eve slid down the wall to sit on the floor. “Had to give her the coat. She’s got a lot of walking to do.”

  Eve closed her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

  “You say that a lot lately.” Ryan grabbed the sheets and dragged them over the mattress. It looked like Eve was asleep. Her bandages were starting to bleed through again. He put the blankets on and added pillows before crouching down next to her. “You want to put clothes on? I got some stuff.”

  “Please. That’d be great.” She opened one eye.

  He set out pajamas and three packages of different underwear. “I could not figure out how the sizing works for these. Boy shorts, high cut, thong…”

  “You did fine.” Eve pulled herself off the floor.

  “Can you manage this?” Ryan half hoped she’d say no.

  “As long as no more ex-girlfriend terrorists crawl through your window, it’ll be okay.” Eve began untying her robe.

  Ryan left her and tried to imagine a meal. Breakfast seemed simplest, so he started pancakes and bacon.

  Eve came into the living room and tucked herself on the couch, wrapped in a blanket. From a quick peek at her wrists, he could see she’d re-bandaged herself.

  He plated food and cut the pancakes up for her, adding syrup. She took it without a word and plowed through. He made his own plate and sat in the recliner.

  After they finished, Eve set her plate next to his on the living room table.

  “I love somebody else.” She met his gaze, her eyes soft and much more focused now.

  “He’s a lucky guy.” Ryan hoped his face didn’t show his disappointment. “That’s not why I made you pancakes.” He’d bought her pale pink pajamas. They were so soft in the store. He’d thought they would be comfortable and warm. But he hadn’t counted on her looking so vulnerable and huggable, the pink giving her face a little extra color.

  “No, he’s not. Lucky would never describe his lot in life.” She sighed. He didn’t know what to say. “I think in a different world? I’d be all over you. You know that? Handsome, strong, funny, and smart. I bet you’ll make a great dad someday.” She closed her eyes.

  He’d seen a similar look on the faces of retiring cops. They’d seen too much. They were left jaded and unimpressed with just how evil people could be. She was way too young for that look.

  “If that’s the way he makes you feel? He’s not the guy for you.” Ryan gathered their plates and got her another pain pill.

  “Really? With what I am?” She took the pill from his hand and swallowed it with orange juice.

  “Actually, with who you are, I do feel that way.” He sat back down.

  They were quiet for a while as the tension in Eve’s shoulders relaxed. Ryan guessed the pills were hitting the spot.

  “Keep drinking.” He pointed at the glass she’d put down. “I think you lost some blood.”

  “I’ve lost a lot more than blood.” She shook her head and picked up the glass.

  “Why don’t you tell me? Consider me your fake boyfriend slash priest.” He put his feet up on the coffee table.

  After a swallow she gave him a skeptical look. “Man, you’re on the wrong side of the law for confessions. I cou
ldn’t do that to you.”

  “You know, a million years ago two guys who were my only father figures were murdered. Ever since then, I’ve had this burning revenge thing going on. I feel like no one gets that. It’s why I fuck insane chicks like Trish. That’s so much easier than explaining that I have this…” He looked for the right word for a few breaths. “…mission. It’s been more important than anything else normal. But meeting you has put it on the back burner. I find myself thinking about you instead of plotting. It’s like a relief. And I know you’re not mine. And I know you’re fucking deadly. But I just want to, like, hug you.”

  He stood and paced. “What I’m saying is, I have no pure intentions. Not as a cop. Not as a man. Not as a friend. I’ve got secrets of my own. So confess, baby. You’re safe with me.”

  She sipped from the orange juice before regarding him with eyes hazy with drugs again. “Let’s speak hypothetically. How’s that?”

  “Works.” Ryan sat next to her on the couch.

  “I’ll tell you a story. You ready?” She nodded as he nodded.

  Eve was bombed off her ass.

  “There was a girl. She was raised by her father because her mother’s new marriage was much more exciting than her kid. This girl dreamed of becoming a mom. After she met the man of her dreams, she was pregnant.” Her words slurred into one another, and it took her longer and longer to recover from her blinks. “And then a murderer killed her love and her baby.” A tear slipped from the corner of one eye as she squeezed them shut.

  “The noise that the car wreck made? It broke that girl. She died that day. And right then, she decided she’d never love again. All her pain was funneled into becoming a machine. Revenge was the only setting she had. And she became better at killing than the murderer.” She took the last sip of her juice.

  He took the glass from her. She hugged her knees to her chest.

  “But even though she could kill anyone, when she finally found him, she couldn’t kill him. Even if he deserved it.” She exhaled and looked at the floor.

 
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