Make it a double, p.15
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       Make It a Double, p.15

         Part #2 of Last Call series by Sawyer Bennett
 
Page 15

  As I step outside of the kennel, I run almost head on into a woman as she’s walking in.

  We both give a little scream of fright as we jump apart and then a chorus of nervous laughter ensues.

  “I’m so sorry,” I tell her while still chuckling. “I almost ran you over. ”

  The woman gives a polite laugh and brings her hand up to play with the gold necklace around her neck. “Not a problem. I just stopped by to see about volunteering with your… um… dog shelter here. ”

  I eye the woman with suspicion, although you’d never know it by the warm and courteous smile on my face. She’s very pretty with shoulder-length, blonde hair that is sleek and shiny, and deep, chocolate-brown eyes. She comes from money… doesn’t take a fool to notice that, but since I come from money too, I can smell it a mile away.

  She’s wearing Chanel from head to toe, her makeup is flawless, and the platinum and diamond tennis bracelet easily cost five figures. There’s no way this woman wants to help me clean up dog shit, and since that means she lied to me as to why she’s here, I go on full-out suspicious alert.

  “What in the f**k are you doing here?” I hear Brody yell before I even see him.

  Turning to my left, he comes stalking down the backside of the kennel, apparently having parked his car in front as he had yesterday. His eyes are glued to the blonde woman, and they are blazing with fury. I can feel tension vibrating off her, and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this must be the famous Stacy Hutchens.

  “Brody, honey… I heard you were working here. Please, give me a moment to talk to you,” she implores, reaching her hands out. I notice her eyes are filled with tears, and she looks truly pained. I don’t know whether to feel sorry for her or not.

  Brody never even breaks stride or slows his pace. He stalks right up to her, grabbing her upper arm while snarling, “Don’t ever f**king call me honey, and you lost your right to talk to me five years ago. ”

  Then he starts dragging her back from the way he had come, presumably to pack her up in her car to leave. She has other ideas though, and her dedication to her task surprises me. She digs in her Herve Leger pumps and the four-inch heels stick nicely in the grass, stopping Brody’s progress.

  “Wait… please, just five minutes,” she beseeches him, tears sliding down her face.

  Dropping his hand from her arm, Brody looks at me in frustration. He’s undecided what to do, and I hope he’s not looking to me for the answer. I have no clue how to advise him. I’m just the girl that wants to kiss him again.

  “I’m going to go and do some work in the office. Give you two some privacy,” I say, spinning on my heel before I can see or hear another moment of this fiasco.

  My heart is beating hard as I walk back through the dog kennels and into my office at the front of the building. I think I’m actually terrified for Brody… having to confront his past when it’s something he doesn’t want to do. I don’t know what the deal is between them, but whatever it is, Brody was incredibly hurt… that much is clear. Taking a seat at my desk, I gaze out the window and see Brody’s car and yeah… a silver Mercedes in one of the visitor spots. I’m betting Brody knew exactly who that car belonged to when he pulled in.

  I open up my laptop, intent on getting some invoices caught up, when the sounds of Brody and Stacy arguing filter through my open window. I get up from my desk, intent on closing it, so I give them the privacy that they don’t even understand they need.

  “Please, Brody,” Stacy sobs loudly as Brody practically drags her to her car. “I’m sorry. So sorry. You have to see that, surely. ”

  “Sorry?” he roars, sounding like an animal in pain, and it lances straight through my heart. “You’re sorry?”

  My gaze is helplessly pinned on Brody as he pushes her toward her car so hard that she stumbles, but then catches herself on the driver’s door. I want to look away, but I can’t. I want to chastise Brody for being so rough with a woman, but something about the torment in his voice makes me believe he’s not exactly out of line.

  “Yes,” she whines. “I’m sorry. But it’s done, and I need—”

  Brody’s face goes from angry to rageful and he leaps at her, wrapping his hand around her throat. Stacy’s eyes go round in fear, but he doesn’t appear to be choking her… just pinning her to the car with his hold. My breath is caught in my lungs, and I don’t know whether to yell out to get him to stop before he does something that can’t be taken back.

  But before I can make a decision on what to do, Brody’s voice stops me cold as he sticks his face right up to hers and hisses in a voice filled with venom. “I f**king went down for a crime I didn’t commit, and it’s your f**king fault, and all you can say is ‘sorry’? You’re lucky I don’t strangle the breath right out of you, right now, and rid the world of your evil. ”

  “I know,” Stacy whines. “I know, and I’m sorry. ”

  Shock slams into me so hard that I reel backwards, until my hands find the edge of my desk to lean on. My heart feels like it’s getting ready to explode out of my chest.

  I push off from my desk and lurch toward the door to my office, trying to get as far away from this scene as I can. I don’t have a moment’s worry that Brody will hurt Stacy. The man may have every reason in the world to kill her, and he may have his hand wrapped around her throat right now, but I know he won’t do anything. It’s not in Brody’s nature, of that I have the utmost conviction.

  My stomach rolls with nausea. I was never meant to hear those words, and I want to scrub my memory so I don’t carry the burden of knowing them. It’s a terrible secret that Brody’s been carrying, and there’s no way he wanted me to hear that. He kept it far too long for that to happen.

  Oh, God… poor Brody.

  He spent five years in prison for something he didn’t do?

  I can’t even fathom bearing such an awfully weighted albatross. My heart cracks wide open at the thought of everything that he missed out on. Everything he gave up. I mean, there was a part of me that accepted Brody’s prison sentence because it was a punishment for something he did wrong. But to know now that he suffered for someone else, and he suffered in silence… I feel just shredded with this knowledge.

  Tears well up in my eyes as I leave my office, and I stagger down the aisle between the dog kennels. When I get outside, I half walk, half run, toward the barn, trying to put as much physical distance in between me and the tragedy that is Brody and Stacy, terrified that their voices will continue to follow me and add to the secret I’m now already carrying.

  Once inside the barn, I hastily feed and water Midget, opening the stall door to the outside corral. Turning left and right, I can’t think of what else I need to do at this moment… other than hide away and maybe hope that Brody just leaves for the day so I don’t have to deal with this.

  Stepping outside of Midget’s stall, I lean my back against the wall and slide to the ground. Pulling my feet up, I lean my head forward and rest it against my knees, wrapping my arms around my shins.

  I don’t know how long I stay in that position, my mind racing with the knowledge. How in the hell can I look at Brody now and keep the truth of the secret I now harbor away from him?

  “You overheard us,” he says from the open barn doorway.

  I raise my head slowly and look at him. His face is blank—devoid of any emotion—and tears well back up in my eyes. “I didn’t mean to. I left as soon as I realized I could hear you. ”

  “Since you’re hiding out here in the barn, I’m thinking you heard enough,” he guesses accurately, and all I can do is nod.

  “You can’t tell anyone,” he instructs me, his gaze burning into me with purpose.

  “Why not?” I ask hesitantly, because I don’t understand why this is a secret. How did something like this ever get to be a secret?

  “Because I said so,” he says, just before turning away and walking out of the barn. I stare at h
is retreating back for just a moment, and then I scramble up to run after him.

  He’s halfway to the kennels when I catch up, reaching out to latch onto his wrist. He stops and looks at me with annoyance.

  “What?” he practically barks.

  “That’s it? Because you said so?”

  “Because I said so,” he affirms, adding on for good measure, “and because it’s none of your business. ”

  Brody tries to pull away, but I hold on tight. “I don’t understand what’s going on. ”

  He takes one step toward me and leans down so we’re almost nose to nose. “It’s not hard to figure out, Alyssa. I wasn’t driving the car that night. ”

  “But you said you were,” I murmur.

  “No, Stacy said I was, and I didn’t deny it. But it had the same consequence. ”

  “Why?” I stammer, because I can’t imagine someone taking the fall for someone else.

  “Alyssa…” he says softly, his eyes warming up just a tad as he brings his hand to cup my jaw tenderly. I wait with baited breath, not sure if he’s going to reveal something to me or kiss me, either of which is fine by me. Instead, he says, “It’s really… None. Of. Your. Damn. Business. ”

  He annunciates each word sharply, squeezing my jaw just a little tighter as he does. Then he stares at me for a moment, making sure the message has sunk in.

  Brody releases me and turns away, headed for the kennels. “I’m going to start giving the anti-socials their leash walks unless you have something else for me to do. ”

  He doesn’t wait for my response, and I really have nothing else to say.

  ***

  Grabbing a cold beer out of my refrigerator and my laptop off my kitchen table, I walk out onto my balcony that overlooks the Atlantic. Settling into a teak lounge chair, I look out at the moon-painted water for a few minutes and try to clear my mind of everything I learned today.

  After Brody’s revelation, I texted Casey and Gabby with shaky fingers and begged off meeting them for breakfast at The Sand Shark. I told them I had a new dog I was taking possession of and while I hated to lie on the phone, I knew I’d never be able to face them with the burden of this secret. At least not until I could process it.

  This is my sanctuary… my beach home. It’s small but richly appointed, about the only place that I’ve truly spent some of my fortune in a frivolous manner. It only has two bedrooms, one of which I use for a home office, but the African wenge hardwoods, custom fabric wall coverings, and state-of-the-art kitchen with a fortune in shiny, stainless steel appliances definitely shows my “heiress” side coming through.

  I make no apologies for how I live. It’s my money to do as I please, and since I spend most of it caring for homeless animals, I figure a splurge on my little beach cottage is something my conscience can handle.

  Setting my beer down on the table beside me, I open my laptop and boot it up. Within just a few minutes and a few clever search terms, I’m staring at a news article about the car accident Brody was involved in. The grainy photograph is of the accident scene, which shows Stacy’s car up against the tree, the driver’s door wide open, and the air bag hanging from the steering wheel. The article is entitled “Durham Man Killed by Drunk Driver”.

  I skim the article, but it doesn’t tell me more than what I already knew.

  Or rather, what I already thought I knew to be the truth.

  Basically, local resident, Frank Castas, had been walking home from a quick trip to a local convenience story when he was struck and killed by second-year Duke medical student, Brody Markham. The article went on to say that Brody had tested over the legal limit for alcohol consumption and had been charged with Felony Death by Vehicle, pointing out that he was out on bond awaiting trial. The article mentioned Stacy only briefly as a passenger, but I found it interesting it said there was no evidence she had been drinking. I can’t help but wonder—if that was the case, why did Brody need to pretend he was driving?

 
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