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       The Saint, p.17

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  water that fucking stick for the final time, go to Søren’s office and hand him her list of questions. And then she’d have something truly to be grateful for.

  She lay down to take a nap. What if their conversation went late into the night? She needed to be ready for that. But as soon as she lay down on her bed, the phone rang.

  With a curse and a groan, she dragged herself to the phone.

  “Hello?” she said, trying not to sound 100 percent irritated.

  “Happy Thanksgiving, baby girl.”

  “Dad?” Eleanor’s heart dropped.

  “Of course it’s your dad.” He laughed, but Eleanor couldn’t.

  “Why are you calling me?”

  “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I love my daughter and miss her? Maybe because I haven’t heard her voice in months and I knew her mom would be working today.”

  “Dad, we’re not allowed to talk to each other.”

  “Who said?”

  “Mom. My lawyer. My … Everybody.” Her father definitely didn’t need to know about Søren.

  “We’re not breaking any laws. A man has a right to see his own child.”

  “What do you mean, see?”

  “I want you to come see me, Elle. Please? I’m going to be sentenced soon,” he said, his voice now devoid of all levity. “I’d love to see you one more time before I have to go away.”

  “Where are you?” she asked.

  “I have a little place in Washington Heights. You can be here in, what, an hour and a half? We’ll have dinner and talk a little. You’ll be back long before your mom gets home. How about it?”

  “That’s not a good idea,” she said, even as her heart broke at the thought of her father going to prison. She’d never forgiven him for abandoning her the night she got arrested. But the truth was, she never really expected him to come in like a white knight and save her. That wasn’t his style. He was still her father, though, and she knew how brutal a real prison could be.

  “Baby, it might our last chance to see each other for years. You know that, right? Years. Your mom will never let you come visit me once I’m in. She always works Friday nights, right?”

  She did. Eleanor was alone. And her father was right—her own lawyer had said her father would probably be imprisoned in another state hours away.

  “I don’t know….”

  “It’s okay. I understand.” She could tell from his tone how hurt and disappointed he was. “But write down my address anyway? In case you change your mind?”

  “Okay, fine. Give it to me.” She figured it wouldn’t hurt for her to have it. She scribbled the address down on a scrap of paper.

  “I hope you change your mind. I’ve missed you so much. You doing okay?”

  “Good,” she said. “I’m really good.”

  “That’s good, baby,” he said softly, with such tenderness in his voice she found her eyes filling with tears and her throat closing up. “I want you to be happy.”

  “I am. Promise.”

  “Good. And you know I’m sorry I got you mixed up in my mess.”

  “I know. I know you’re sorry.”

  “Miss you. I’m home all day if you change your mind.”

  “All right. Happy Thanksgiving.” She didn’t know what else to say.

  “I love you, Elle. Always have, always will.”

  Eleanor could barely swallow for the pain in her throat.

  “Love you, too,” she whispered.

  And then he hung up.

  It wouldn’t hurt, would it? Seeing him for an hour? Except Søren had told her never to speak to or see her father again. Maybe he’d let her if she asked permission? Maybe he’d understand that she wouldn’t see her dad again for years and this might her last chance.

  She picked up the phone again and called Sacred Heart. She had the number that rang directly into Søren’s office. But it wasn’t Søren who answered.

  “Sacred Heart Catholic Church,” a woman’s voice answered over the line.

  “Hi, Diane, it’s Elle,” she said to Søren’s secretary. “Is Father S. in? I have a question for him about my hours.”

  “No, hon. He’s out of town with family for the holiday. Father Jim O’Neil from Immaculate is handling the masses until he gets back. Can I help you?”

  Eleanor couldn’t answer at first. Søren was out of town for the holiday? But they had plans. He’d promised to answer her questions as soon as she finished watering the stick. That would be today. He hadn’t even told her he was leaving.

  “Elle?”

  “No, it’s cool. It wasn’t important.”

  A sense of betrayal seared her. How could Søren have forgotten about her? Forgotten to even tell her he was leaving for four days? He would have been furious at her if she disappeared without telling him where she’d gone. And he’d done it like it was nothing, like her feelings and their plans didn’t matter at all.

  She looked down at the scrap of paper and the address on it.

  If Søren couldn’t be bothered to keep up his end of the bargain, why should she?

  She took a quick shower and put on her best clothes—a new pair of jeans and a low-cut black sweater with a label from some fancy boutique she’d found at Goodwill, the original tags still on it. Washington Heights wasn’t the greatest neighborhood, but she wanted to look good for the city. She shoved her feet into her boots and grabbed her coat. She had about a hundred dollars saved in ones and fives rubber banded around the business card for Edge Enterprises tucked in her dresser. That was more than enough to get her to the city and back.

  She took a bus to Westport, where she caught the train to Manhattan and then the subway to Washington Heights. She’d been running on pure anger for the past three hours but now that she’d arrived at her father’s building, a new feeling of dread threatened to take its place. The building looked one step above condemned. People on the street passed her, shooting her suspicious looks. But she wouldn’t give in to her fears. She buzzed her father’s apartment. When he heard her voice he almost sounded smug.

  He buzzed her in and she climbed four foul-smelling sets of stairs to his apartment. He opened the door, and before she could say hello, he’d grabbed her and smothered her in a bear hug.

  “Good to see you, too, Dad,” she said, nearly struggling for air.

  “God damn, I can’t believe you’re here.” He pulled back and looked at her. “Who are you? And what have you done to my daughter?”

  “I am your daughter.”

  “Don’t look it. You look twenty years old now. When did that happen?”

  “It’s the clothes and the makeup.”

  “Supermodel.”

  “Stop it.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m too short.”

  “And too pretty. You don’t get that from me.” He let her go at last and she glanced around his apartment. A small studio, it might have been nice if someone cleaned it up, put some decent furniture in it. Her father clearly didn’t have the decorating gene.

  “I know it’s not much to look at,” he said, walking into the tiny kitchen. “I knew I wasn’t going to be here long. But while you’re here, take your coat off. Get comfortable.”

  She doubted she could ever feel comfortable in this place. Dirty dishes sat in haphazard stacks all over the apartment; clothes littered the floor. The whole place reeked of stale cigarette smoke and rotting food. She took off her coat and laid it over the back of the one chair that had the least amount of garbage on and around it.

  “So … do you know what’s going to happen?” she asked.

  “I’m going to prison,” he said and took a beer out of the refrigerator. “Want one?”

  “You know I’m sixteen, right?”

  “You’re not driving, are you?”

  “No,” she said and took the beer from him. She’d had alcohol before but never in front of either of her parents. Communion wine didn’t count. She took a sip and found it equal parts disgusting and wonderful.

  “So ho
w’s community service treating you?” her dad asked, and she heard a note of bitterness in his voice.

  “It’s not bad. I do a lot of office work for charities. I hang out at the homeless shelter and help out. Did a day-camp thing this summer. That was fun.”

  “Nice work if you can get it. Sounds better than prison.”

  She winced. “I’m sorry, Dad. I wish …”

  “What? What do you wish?”

  “I wish you didn’t have to go.”

  “Yeah, well, that makes two of us.”

  He drank his beer hard and fast. The man had an unnatural tolerance for alcohol, something he called “the Catholic effect.”

  “Still trying to figure out how you got off so easy. I mean, thrilled you did. Don’t want my baby girl in juvie or anything, but still. Community service for five felony counts?”

  “I had a nice judge. A good lawyer.”

  “Where’d the lawyer come from?”

  “The church paid for her. I do some work at the church to pay them back.”

  “That’s good for you, then. Real good for you.”

  “So … you said you wanted to go to dinner?” She desperately wanted to change the subject. She could tell talk of her light sentence didn’t sit with her father.

  “Yeah, sure. But let me ask you something first.”

  “Sure. What?”

  “I have a new lawyer, too. Smart guy. Tough guy. Not a shark you want to meet in the ocean. Anyway, he’s thinking he can maybe get me a new trial.”

  “New trial? Why?”

  “Some fuckup with the evidence. Some dumb cop mislabeled a file or something, I don’t know. But if he can swing it and I get a new trial, there’s a chance I won’t have to go to prison.”

  “You don’t think there’s enough evidence against you?”

  “If I had a witness who’d maybe recant some of her statements she made to the police, then there’s a chance.”

  Eleanor could only stare at her father in silence. He opened another beer. She’d barely made a dent in hers.

  “You want me to lie on a witness stand for you? I gave an allocution. I’d go to juvie in a heartbeat if I start telling people I lied to the police. I’m on probation and I think I’ve seen enough TV to know perjury is a crime. A big one.”

  “Baby, you’re sixteen. Even if you did end up in juvie, you’ll be out by the time you’re eighteen. That’s a year and a half. I’m looking at ten or more years, Elle.”

  “I’m not going to lie for you.”

  “Ten years. Fifteen years. You don’t care about that? You don’t care about your own father?”

  “And it’s not just a year and a half for me. This could fuck up my whole life. Am I supposed to send in college applications with a juvenile detention facility as my current address? I don’t think NYU lets in criminals.”

  “NYU?” He laughed. “You seriously think you’re going to get into a school like that?”

  “I’m smart, Dad, if you haven’t noticed. I’m in college-prep classes. I get good grades. I score crazy high on those stupid IQ tests they make us take.”

  “How are you planning on paying for it? Turning tricks?”

  “Ever hear of scholarships?”

  “Don’t kid yourself. You go to a Podunk high school and no preppy school is ever going to let you in.”

  “I don’t believe that. My priest says I’m smart, and he’s the smartest person I’ve ever met.”

  “If he’s so smart why’s he a fucking priest?”

  “You’re an asshole.”

  “I’m not the one who rolled on her father to save her own ass.”

  “That’s your own fucking fault,” she shot back. “Nobody asked you to be a criminal. Mom’s got two real jobs. Why couldn’t you get a real job?”

  “You want me to work two jobs like your mom and be a frigid miserable bitch like her?”

  “Better than being a piece-of-shit lowlife who let his own daughter take the heat for him, right?”

  Her father’s hand whipped out and slapped her with such speed she flinched far more from the shock than the pain.

  She stared at him, wide-eyed and dazed.

  “I hope you rot in jail,” she said. Her father raised his hand to slap her again. She ducked and tried to push past him. He grabbed her and shoved her bodily against the refrigerator. She pushed him back with all her strength and managed to get around him, even as he tried to grab her.

  She raced to the door and ran down the four flights of steps as fast as she could and even then she heard her father’s footsteps chasing right behind her. She hit the street and started running again. She turned a corner and found a subway entrance. When she went for her money she realized the horrible fact that she’d left her coat in her dad’s apartment. And it had all her money in it.

  “Fuck …” she breathed. She had nothing. Nothing but that stupid list of questions for Søren. No money. No keys. No train ticket. Everything that mattered was in her coat.

  In desperation she studied the subway map of the city, hoping she’d think of someone—anyone—she knew in the city who could help her. One street name jumped out at her. Riverside Drive wasn’t that far away from the looks of it. Three miles maybe? She could get there in forty-five minutes if she booked it. Søren had given her that card, that fucking card that was trapped in her coat, for his friend who lived on Riverside Drive. He said to go there in case of emergency. Getting stuck in the city without any money sounded like an emergency to her.

  She got her bearings and emerged streetside again, glancing around to make sure her father wasn’t anywhere watching or following her. It seemed safe, so she started out, walking as fast as she could in her boots. She shoved her hands into her jeans’ pockets for warmth and tried not to cry. In her heart, she’d always known her father was exactly what she’d called him—a piece-of-shit lowlife criminal. But she’d wanted to believe so badly that he cared about her, that he’d missed her, that he loved her. She berated herself block after block for believing all that shit he’d shoveled on her. All he wanted was to suck up to her, get her in a good mood, make her think he gave a damn about her, and then get her to lie for him.

  The temperature dropped and the air burned her lungs and nose. Tears streamed from her eyes as she walked. She prayed hard that this friend of Søren’s would take pity on her and help her get home. If not, she’d grab a paper cup from a store and beg for change like the homeless people she passed huddled under the dingy blankets.

  Finally she reached the address she remembered from the business card. The house—white stone with black iron trim—shone like the sun under the streetlamps.

  “God damn …” she breathed. House? This was no house. This was a New York palace. She studied it for a good five minutes trying to memorize all the details. Three stories tall or maybe more. From where she stood she thought she spied glass on the roof—maybe one of those fancy greenhouses or conservatories or whatever they were called. The front of the house was white, but all the trim on the arched windows was black. The second story had a black iron balcony and people in party clothes—dresses and suits—came in and out of the door. She moved in closer as she worked up the courage to knock on the door. Then she saw it. In the shadows at the side of the house she spotted a black Ducati motorcycle.

  Søren? She couldn’t believe he was here. Diane had said he was with family for Thanksgiving and wouldn’t be back until Sunday. What was he doing here at a party on Riverside Drive? She didn’t know, but she sure as hell intended to find out. A limousine pulled up and a group of girls in short stylish coats and stiletto heels emerged and headed straight for the front door. Eleanor followed them and when the person at the door let them in en masse, she slipped in behind them.

  For five solid minutes Eleanor did nothing but stand in the luxurious marble foyer and stare. To her left in the front room of the house, she saw a woman in a silver dress standing in front of a man wearing a suit. He threw a wad of cash onto a low coff
ee table. A dozen people around them threw down money, as well. The woman slipped the dress off her shoulders, and it cascaded to the floor. She wore nothing underneath. The man in the suit pulled her down into his lap and dug his fingers between her legs as he bit her neck and shoulders. Eleanor tried not to watch but she couldn’t turn away from the scene. He pushed her onto her hands and knees, opened his pants and started stroking himself. Something started to tighten up in her stomach as he thrust into the naked woman from
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