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       The Saint, p.9

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  “Go for it. See you back at the shop.”

  Eleanor hopped out of the car and sidled over to the lot. She saw a few people milling around but no one seemed to notice her. She probably looked like some drunk preppy waiting for her friends to come out of a bar.

  Let them think that. Let them think anything they wanted as long as they didn’t notice her standing with her back to the driver’s side window, a bent coat hanger behind her back. She dug under the latch and lifted up, popping the lock with ease.

  Ten seconds later she and her new friend Shelby were already on the street.

  Done. She’d jacked five high-dollar cars in one night. One night? She’d done it in four hours. A sense of relief flooded her. In no time she’d be back in her bed at home dreaming of Søren. Good thing she’d finished her job early. The skies had opened up and rain exploded from the clouds. The temperature, unusually warm the past week, turned frigid in minutes. The rain fractured the city lights and set everything in her rearview mirror alight with a blue glow.

  Blue?

  “Fuck.” In a panic Eleanor glanced behind her. A police car, blue lights ablaze, nestled in behind her. It hadn’t turned on its sirens and the silence of the car menaced her far more than sound.

  She knew she had about two seconds to decide what to do. She could gun it and run. The second she lost the cop car she could dump the Mustang and disappear. But this wasn’t the highway or the interstate. This was Manhattan after midnight. Narrow streets. Pedestrians. Her foot hovered over the pedals. Accelerator on her right, brake on her left. Eleanor looked around for an escape route. She saw no alleys. No easy exits. And up on her right loomed a church, its ancient spire casting a cross-shaped shadow onto the shining streets.

  Eleanor hit the brakes and prayed for a miracle.

  8

  Eleanor

  FOR TWO HOURS THE COPS KEPT HER IN THE BACK of the squad car while they asked her questions and talked on their shoulder-mounted walkie-talkies. She did her best to stick to her story. I’m sorry. I wanted to drive it around the block. You know—joyriding. But for some reason the cops didn’t quite buy it. Apparently joyriders usually borrowed cars they had the keys to, not cars that had to have their locks popped and their ignitions hot-wired.

  The two cops—one white, one black, both young—seemed way too excited about having pulled her over. Mobsters and murderers and rapists were running all over town and Officer Ferrell and Officer Hampton couldn’t stop patting themselves on the back for bringing down a fifteen-year-old car thief.

  “We called your mom,” Officer Hampton said, giving her a wink.

  “Oh, no, not my mom.”

  “She’ll meet us at the station,” Officer Ferrell said.

  “Station? We have to go to the station?”

  “Sure we do.” Officer Hampton waved his hand, motioning at her to stand up. She stepped out of the back of the squad car and into the driving rain. “That’s where we take everybody we arrest.”

  “Arrest?”

  Ferrell and Hampton laughed as they pulled her arms gently behind her back and placed handcuffs on her wrists. The cold metal bit into her skin. She’d never worn handcuffs before. The heft of them surprised her. She’d never dreamed they’d feel so heavy and cold.

  The white cop, Ferrell, placed a hand on the back of her head as he maneuvered her into the back of the squad car.

  “You, little girl,” began Officer Hampton, “have the right to remain silent.”

  “Take that advice, little girl,” Officer Ferrell said as she pulled her feet into the car.

  Eleanor glared up at his wide, plain and arrogant face.

  “Don’t call me little girl.”

  Her bravado lasted until the door slammed behind her. Alone in the backseat of the squad car, she started to shake. The temperature had dropped. Rain had soaked her clothes and hair. Her skin felt clammy and cold. But that wasn’t why she couldn’t stop shaking.

  Once at the station the two officers pulled around to the police entrance. Officer Ferrell opened the door and ordered her out. As they headed toward the door, she saw two figures ten yards away at the main entrance standing in the rain both holding umbrellas. One was her mother. She’d recognize that shabby pink umbrella with the ruffles anywhere. Her mother stood watching her, her face as wet with tears as Eleanor’s was wet with rain. Behind her under a black umbrella loomed someone else. Tall, stern and watchful, he followed her every step with his eyes. She raised her head, not wanting him to see her fear and her shame. Something about the sight of her must have amused him because his gaze darted once to her handcuffed wrists before meeting her eyes with the subtlest of smiles on his lips. Officer Hampton ushered her inside and put her in a plastic chair.

  “Can I see my mom?” she asked him as the officer at the desk took her mug shot, and another starting typing on a computer behind the high desk.

  “Soon. We’re gonna get you in a room. Somebody’s coming to talk to you.”

  “Do I need a lawyer?” she asked, having learned long ago from her father that in their world the L word had magic powers.

  “You can talk to your mom about that later,” Officer Hampton said as he scribbled on a clipboard. She wondered if he was drawing dinosaur doodles the way his hand flew all over the page. All the files and the forms and the pictures were intimidation tactics. They’d asked her fifteen times in the car on the way over where she’d planned on taking the car. She knew they wanted her father and his shop, and they weren’t about to get that information from her.

  “How long do I have to keep wearing the handcuffs?” The metal cuffs kept hitting the back of her plastic chair and making a scraping sound like nails on a chalkboard.

  “We’ll get those off in a minute,” Officer Ferrell said. “Once I remember where I put the keys.”

  “Come on, Speed Racer.” Officer Hampton snapped his fingers in her face. “We got a room for you.”

  He took her gently by the upper arm and escorted her down a dingy beige hallway to a room with nothing but a table in the center and two chairs.

  “You’re going to interrogate me?” Eleanor asked as she sat down in the chair.

  “Nothing but a friendly conversation. Someone will be in soon.”

  He shut the door and left her alone in the room with nothing but her fears. Calm down, she ordered herself. It’ll be okay. Dad will find out and he’ll come straight down here and tell them it was his fault, his doing, that he asked me to help him because he owed the mob a lot of money. He’d never let her take the fall for him. Not his own daughter, his only child. Right?

  But deep down she knew he wasn’t coming for her.

  Time dripped by as slowly as frozen honey from a bottle. The adrenaline drained from her body and soon Eleanor felt the exhaustion under the fear. Her head throbbed; her arms ached. She’d give anything to get out of these handcuffs and stretch.

  Eventually her chin dropped to her chest. For a few minutes she even slept.

  The sound of a door opening alerted her to the presence of someone entering the room. She kept her head down, her eyes closed.

  Something touched her cuffed hands behind her back. Fingers brushed her palm, caressed her wrists. She heard a click and the cuffs came off. In any other room under any other circumstances she might have enjoyed the sensation of large warm hands on her cold skin. Some cop touching her in such a personal way made her stomach turn.

  She heard the rasp of a chair on the floor and the sound of the metal handcuffs landing on the table.

  If she opened her eyes and raised her head, it would start. The whole ugly mess would start. Interrogation, investigation, accusations … Her eyelids were a wall, and until she opened them the world would stay behind that wall. But she couldn’t hide forever.

  She opened her eyes expecting to see a cop or a lawyer or maybe even her mom.

  But no, it was her priest. He didn’t speak, not a word. She brought her arms around in front of her and started to rub h
er wrists. It had been him touching her fingers and chafing her skin as he’d removed the handcuffs, not some creepy cop.

  Eleanor hated that he’d been dragged into this mess. Her mother had probably called him in a panic the second after the cops had called her. Anytime anything bad ever happened, her mother’s first call was to Father Greg. Had it been Father Greg she’d called, the old priest would have prayed on the phone with her, offered her words of advice and comfort. He never would have dragged himself out of bed in the middle of the night to go to a police station in the city. But Søren had. Why?

  He continued to stare at her in silence and Eleanor felt like she’d unwittingly entered into a staring contest. Fine. Staring contest it was then. She knew how to get him to blink.

  “So,” she began, “since our last talk about rules and priests and sex and stuff, I’ve been meaning to ask you a question. Are you one of those priests who likes to fuck the kids in the congregation?”

  She waited.

  He didn’t blink.

  “No.”

  Okay, so he was good at this game. She was better.

  She raised her chin and gave him the sort of smile she’d dreamed of giving a handsome older man but never had the guts or the chance to try it.

  “Too bad.”

  “Eleanor, we need to discuss the predicament you’re in at the moment.”

  She nodded her agreement.

  “I’m in a real pickle.”

  Smile? Laugh? Withering glare? Nothing.

  “You were arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto. Several luxury vehicles with a combined value of a quarter of a million dollars were stolen tonight. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

  “I take the Fifth,” she said, proud of her legal knowledge. “That’s what I’m supposed to say, right?”

  Now she received the withering glare she’d been hoping for.

  “To the courts, yes. To me, never. To me, you will tell the truth always.”

  “I don’t think you want to know the truth about me, Søren.” She dropped her voice to a whisper at the moment she said his name. It seemed like a magic word to her, his name. Like knowing his name meant something special like it did in fairy tales.

  “Eleanor, there is nothing I don’t want to know about you. Nothing you tell me will shock or disgust me. Nothing will cause me to change my mind about you.”

  “Change your mind? You’ve already made up your mind about me? What’s the verdict?” She braced herself, not wanting the answer. They had nothing in common, she and her priest. He looked like money, talked like money. He had the whitest fingernails she’d ever seen on a man. White fingernails, perfect hands like a marble sculpture of a Greek god. And her? She was a fucking train wreck. Chipped black nail polish, soaked clothes, dripping wet hair and her entire life over in one night.

  “The verdict is this—I am willing and capable of helping you out of this mess you’ve gotten yourself into tonight.”

  “Can we call it a pickle? Pickle sounds less scary than mess.”

  “It’s a disaster, young lady. The car they caught you stealing belongs to a very powerful man. He’s already demanding the police try you as an adult and put you away for the maximum sentence. You could spend years in juvenile detention, or worse—an adult facility. At the very least, this man doesn’t want you seeing sunlight until you’re twenty-one years old. Blessedly, I have some connections in this area. Or, more accurately, I have someone who has some connections in this area.”

  For the first time since they started speaking, he broke eye contact with her. He glanced away into the corner of the room. His face wore the strangest expression. Whoever this powerful person was, Søren didn’t seem all that excited about asking him. In fact, if she had to guess, she’d say he was dreading it.

  “You’re going to go through all this trouble for me, why?”

  Søren looked back at her and gave her a smile that stripped her soul naked and put it on its knees.

  “Because there is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect you, Eleanor. Nothing I wouldn’t do to help you and nothing I wouldn’t do to save you. Nothing.”

  The way he spoke the final “nothing” sent a chill through her body. It scared her instead of comforting her. He meant it. That was why it scared her.

  “That’s not an answer. You’re saying you’re helping me because you’re helping me.”

  “I am.”

  “There’s no other reason?”

  “There is, but I can’t tell what it is yet.”

  “But you will?”

  “In time. But first, Eleanor, there is something you should know.”

  Eleanor sat up straight her in her chair and gave him her full attention.

  “What?”

  “There is a price you will have to pay.”

  “Oh, goodie,” she said, and gave him a wide smile. “Now we get back to my first question about the fucking of the kids at church. Well, if you insist.”

  “Do you value your worth as a child of God so little that you presume I would only help in exchange for sex?”

  He asked the question calmly and with only curiosity in his tone, but the words still hit as hard as a fist in her stomach.

  “So that’s a no?”

  Søren raised an eyebrow at her and Eleanor was overcome with a fit of laughter. She was beginning to like this guy. She’d fallen in love with him the moment she first saw him, and she would love him now until the end of world. But she’d never dreamed she’d like him so much.

  “That would be a no,” he said. “I will, however, require something from you.”

  “Do you always talk like this?”

  “You mean articulately?”

  “Yes.”

  “Yes.”

  “Weird. So what am I paying you for your help? I hope it’s not my firstborn child or anything. Don’t want kids.” She wasn’t sure about that last part but it sounded kind of tough.

  “My price is simply this—in exchange for my assistance, I ask that you do what I tell you to do from now on.”

  “Do what you tell me to do?”

  “Yes. I want you to obey me.”

  “From now on?” She couldn’t believe she’d heard him right. “Like, for how long?”

  Søren looked at her again, looked at her without smiling, without blinking, without jesting, without joking. He looked at her like the next word he said would be the most important word he ever spoke and the most important word she ever heard.

  “Forever.”

  The word hung in the air between them before falling into her lap and seeping into her skin.

  “Forever,” she repeated. “You want me to obey your every order forever?”

  “Yes.”

  “What are you going to order me to do?”

  “As soon as you agree to my terms, you will learn your first order.”

  “You know forever is a really long time. It’s the longest time, actually. You don’t get longer than forever.”

  “I am aware of this.”

  “I could be in juvie until I’m twenty-one. Forever’s longer than six years.”

  “It is.”

  “I’ll take juvie, then.” A foolish boast, but one she meant.

  “You would rather go to prison than obey me?” Søren sounded horrified. Maybe even scared. His fear made her afraid. But not so afraid she would give in, not yet.

  “If I’m going to give you forever,” she said, raising her chin higher, “I want something in return.”

 
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