Li Yiao had his tentacles spread through the far reaches of the east coast. He was a mobster by choice; a career path laid out by his father and his father before him. He was ruthless, powerful and money hungry. He never accepted “no” as an answer when it came to things that he wanted, including people. His men were everywhere, always watching Noelle, whether she came or went. She constantly changed phones and phone numbers but Yiao was always one step ahead and lately, the first and most frequent call she received on each phone. The sun was rising over the horizon, the orange glow brightening the room as she scanned through his file. Hidden in a pizza box, Maverick had managed to sneak his entire dossier to her. He was wanted for racketeering, prostitution, assault, murder and a laundry list of other offenses. He was infamous for getting his own hands dirty; he was an avid believer that when you killed a person, you absorbed their power from their blood. He was a monster and he was poised to ruin everything Noelle had worked so hard for.
Andrew preferred to work solo until his partner was found. He hoped daily that his departure was voluntary, that he didn’t go rogue and got caught in a fatal situation. The day was unusually slow and he was about to call it when he got the call. “Desiree” flashed across his screen and his heart quickened. He hadn’t spoken to her since the night he went over, even though he desperately wanted to apologize. He took a deep breath before accepting the call. “Hey,” he said, trying to sound cheery. “Andrew…”
“Yeah, Dee, I gotta apologize for the other night. I was way outta line…”
“Andrew…Someone’s here,” she whispered.
“I don’t know. He kicked in the door. I’m hiding upstairs.”
“Can you make it to the back door?”
“No. He’s coming up the stairs.” Andrew stood up from his desk. “Dee, listen, you need to open the window and…” Before he could finish his instructions, he heard a struggle and Desiree swear. “Dee? Desiree!” he yelled, before the line disconnected. He slammed the phone down on his desk and covered his mouth. He took half a second to collect himself before he kicked the chair and strode across the room. Detective Shondra Miller sat a few feet away from him, typing up her notes on a current closed case. Andrew’s large stature cast a shadow across her, slightly startling her. “Jordan, what’s up?” she asked, reading the worry lines in his face. He grabbed a Post-It note from her desk and began scribbling an address. “If I don’t call you in an hour, I need you to bring back-up to this address,” he said, lifting the note to her eye level and dropping it back on the desk, before jogging out of the squad room. “Wait, what’s going on?!” she yelled at his back but he was already gone.
The street was quiet and the gallery was dark. Andrew parked closer to the curb and shut off his lights. He reached under his seat and produced his weapon, which he slipped into the holster under his arm. He leaned down and double checked the pistol strapped to his ankle. Armed for bear, he got out of his car and rounded the block. He needed the element of surprise and he knew that the back entrance would be ideal. As he crept down the alley, he saw the large, gray service door was already slightly propped open, the latch never catching from its previous use. Andrew unholstered his weapon and pulled the door open slowly before slipping inside. The space was foreign from this side of her makeshift wall: the storage area for her supplies had been disrupted, as if a struggle had ensued. As he stepped over paint brushes and eisels, he steadied himself for what he might witness behind the wall. He never saw the hulking man in the corner, until he clobbered him with something heavy, rendering him unconscious.
Alice heard the car pull into the driveway. Andrew was home. She quickly picked up her laptop and pushed her glasses back on her face. He’d been gone less than an hour, yet, she was still worried. Things between them were beginning to fizzle again and she was terrified it would get worse. Anytime he left the house, she questioned if he was going to see Her again. He was never out later than normal or smelled of perfume. Alice had never found any evidence of an affair and she double checked nightly. Cheater’s Remorse was getting the best of her and she planned to put a stop to it.
Alice skipped over her criminal past and the scar tissue on her uterus. She told Andrew everything else, just as she promised: the miscarriage, the depression, the pain, how she wound up in Jackie’s arms. Every feeling and thought she’d had over the past 11 months, she laid bear for her husband. An hour had gone by when she finally stopped talking. Andrew struggled to maintain his composure but he could not hold back the tears. He was genuinely heart broken, the first time since Monique LaSalle, whom dumped him 3rd French in high school.
I need you.
The text was vague, especially after all that had happened. Andrew was still concerned. The heart-to-heart with Desiree gave him all the insight he needed. He wanted to make it work with his wife. He began his own message when another blue bubble appeared.
At the station.
His U-turn was sharp and wide as he flipped on his siren and barrelled down the street in the direction of his job. He felt his heart skip a beat when he pulled in 8 minutes later. He asked a few officers about his wife as he sped through the building, leading him to the homicide squad room. Alice sat next to Detective Foreman’s desk, shaken with tears falling down her face. “Babe, hey, what happened?” he said, kneeling in front of her. She wrapped her arms around him and sobbed uncontrollably.
The neighborhood hadn’t changed, except for being buoyant and lively, many of the homes were empty shells of their former glory. Roman stopped his car in front of one of the lots, few signs of a house’s existence there. He put the car in park on the curb and got out. He stuck his hands into his pockets and stared. So much history on this very spot. He’d been gone long enough and he was back to claim what was his.
He had been watching her for a while.
She laughed loudly with her friends, taking occasional sips of her Cosmo. Her hair was slicked back neatly into a ponytail, accentuating her face.
He had finally worked up the nerve to talk to her, pouring the last of the whiskey into his mouth. “Amanda”, but her friends called her “Mandy”. They talked, she flirted; batting her long eyelashes and touching his arms. She took the final sip of her drink and he could tell she was already drunk, even though it was only 9pm, even though she did her best to remain poised.
Let’s get out of here.
The motel was clean enough. She paid no mind to its order; she was too excited about being entangled in the arms of this beautiful man. They stood in the doorway, entertaining the empty parking lot with their kisses and groping. She gasped as he bit her ear and kissed her neck. She wrapped her leg around his waist and pulled him closer to her. He lost himself in her perfume, pushing his face into her bosom. They made their way to the bed, the heavy door snapping shut behind them. He tossed her onto the bed, sending her down with a squeal and a giggle. She began undressing and kissing his body. He was beautiful, muscular and lean. She opened his jeans and took him whole into her mouth. He moaned at the feeling. It has been so long since he felt this way. He gripped her ponytail and guided her head in her motions, giving her as much as she could handle. She felt his legs quiver and she stopped to shed her clothes.
Take me now, she moaned, laying back onto the bed.
The pillow was on her face before she couldn’t react. He was on top of her, pinning her arms to her side. She screamed into the fabric, muffling her voice as she fought. Confusion, fear and survival flooded her mind as she fought but he smashed the pillow harder into her face. In a brief moment of clarity, she searcher her mind frantically for an answer. Surrounded by darkness, her thoughts grew foggy, her screams quieted and her jerking stopped. She felt herself slipping away, out of the bed, somewhere else.
Then she was still. He held her for a moment longer, angry tears sliding down his face. His breathing quickened and his heart sank down to his stomach. It wasn’t his heart that escaped from his throat but bile that escaped out onto the floor. Now he had nothing.
He wiped his mouth and sat on the edge of the bed and dug into his pocket for the newspaper clipping. The picture was one he had taken on his daughter’s 8th birthday, the pair of them smiling brightly. He had finally gotten the monster that took his family away from him. He reread the clip again: Mother and daughter slain by drunk driver. Now he had nothing. No wife, no daughter, no obsession.