Unspoken Vows, Book 1 of the Heartbeat Series

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Chapter 19.. The Longest Day of the Year

After Megan’s meltdown during the Fourth of July weekend, things started to improve. The hot summer felt like it would drag on forever in New York with its high humidity. Meg seemed better, but I couldn’t judge if it was just that she had something new to obsess over besides me. I had plenty to do without obsessing over her. My telecommuting to California had its drawbacks, and come September, I had no other choice but to return to California to get things under control again.

Davenport was also too quiet for my liking. I considered hiring a bodyguard for Megan but when Mike came into the office to discuss this option, Meg threw a fit, reasoning that she carried her cell phone and if Randy hassled her, she’d have him picked up. She wouldn’t stand to have a bodyguard. We both knew that he wouldn’t chance attacking her again unless he was totally stupid, since he’d end up in jail until his trial date in January.

Meg studied for her GRE when she wasn’t working, and I hardly saw her when her face wasn’t in an exam guide the size of the Manhattan phone book, or calling Brandon about her math sections since I proved to be useless in that area. While she didn’t let on if she was afraid, some parts of Megan were back to normal. Her feisty attitude was back and her exercise regimen too. Meg attended a meeting on Monday nights, her group on Tuesday afternoons, and she saw Ruby on Fridays. If she zoned out, I didn’t notice it, but I really thought Meg was over that, and Megan was all right about me leaving.

I left on a Sunday afternoon, getting a kiss from Anna and a hug from Megan, who promised to check in with me regularly. Monday night after her Al-anon meeting, she checked in. Everything was fine. Tuesday afternoon, she checked in after she had returned from a group session. She called me every day after her run too. Every day but Friday, I heard from her. Three o’clock in the afternoon, California time, I realized I hadn’t heard from Megan that day, so I called Anna.

“Mr. Corwynn, I don’t know where she is. This isn’t like her to go and not tell me.”

“Did she go to Ruby’s?”

“She had a two o’clock appointment, but usually she would come home and work in the office, then run after she dropped off the mail.”

“That is her routine. Have you called her cell phone?”

“Yes, it says that she’s out of the area.”

“Out of the area? That can’t be. Where would she go?”

“I don’t know, but I think you better call Rex, Mr. Corwynn. Please call me back as soon as you know something.”

While I searched my wallet for Rex’s card, my first thought was that Meg probably went shopping. Maybe Meg realized that freedom was hers again and she exercised a little of it. This just wasn’t like her to leave the area or not answer her cell phone. When I dialed it, I heard the same message, ‘out of the area.’

Rex returned my call in California around five that afternoon. In two hours, I had contacted my pilot, putting him on notice to file flight plans now, in case we’d need them within the next few hours. My car was parked downstairs waiting for me, all ready for me to climb inside and give Stefan the go. I paced the office, continuously redialing and ringing her cell phone. When Margie Simms buzzed me on the intercom me to say that Detective Rex White was on line one for me, I didn’t pick up right away. I knew it was bad news. I wanted to hear Margie say, “Megan’s on the phone,” not that “Detective Rex White is on line one for you.” Detective Rex White meant only one thing—that Davenport got her. As the thought of her injured from his last assault went through my mind, I reached for the receiver, took a breath and said hello.

“Alex, we found Megan’s car.”

“What?” I asked, wanting to hear that he found Megan as my heart raced.

“It collided with a telephone pole. It’s totaled. There’s no sign of Megan anywhere.” Instantly my legs felt weak, and I had to sit in my chair, hoping she was fine, just disoriented from an accident.

“You don’t think—”

“Yeah, we do. She was rear-ended and the skids show two pairs, meaning someone pushed her into the pole and left black paint on her bumper.”

“Where was the car?”

“Jamaica Plains. We have an APB out on Davenport.”

“Did you send someone over to his house?”

“Yeah, its empty, we searched it already.”

“I’ll be home in a few hours. I’ve had my pilot on alert.” As I picked up my Blackberry from the desk, I saw the calendar desk blotter where I had doodled stars around “Angie Comes Home” on today’s block. Angie was due to come home today, I realized. She starts school on Monday amid all of this mess. I felt so low, that I forgot my own daughter’s homecoming.

After I grabbed my briefcase, I took off out of there, meeting my jet at the private airfield. We flew out and I called Brandon. No answer. When I called the house, he was there, consoling Anna. While I beat myself up over forgetting Angie’s homecoming, Brandon said not to worry, that she’d let me make it up to her, and if need be, he’d take her to his apartment early to get settled for school.

“I redid her room in a soft amber,” said Brandon. “It’s very warm like her personality.”

“That’s sweet, Bran’. May I pay for the paint?”

“No, it needed to be done anyway.”

“Where’s Megan?”

“I have no idea. I’m going to get off here in case they’re trying to call.”

I dialed Megan’s cell phone again. No answer. It was in the area at least, but no answer, just voicemail. I kept ringing it. No answer. I kept praying, since I didn’t know what else to do.

Brandon called me a half an hour later.

“They found his fingerprints on the driver’s side door handle,” Brandon reported. I drew in a deep breath and let it out. This was no time to panic.

“Her cell phone rings and goes to voicemail. It no longer says ‘not in the area,’ Brandon. Where could she be?”

“I’ll call you the minute I know anything.”

I asked Tom the pilot how much longer we had. “Another two hours, Mr. Corwynn,” he replied. The attendant got me a beer while I loosened my tie.

Much happened in the last hours of my flight. Rex had located Randy’s latest property purchase, which they searched and found nothing. They questioned his parents, ransacked his house, trying to find any clues possible to locate her.

That night, I held my daughter a little closer. Rex was there an hour after I arrived, just to question me some more.

“Meg’s cell phone reported out of the area, and now it rings,” I said.

“Her cell phone?” he asked.

I nodded, thinking he knew this already.

“We didn’t find one in the car.”

“She wears it on her jeans or in the pocket of her cargo pants, if that’s what she was wearing.”

“It was what she was wearing,” replied Anna, coming into the room.

“We might be able to locate her yet. We can determine what tower is passing her signal. What’s her number?”

Rex called it, and again, it rang non-stop.

When the tech located her signal from the tower, he said that she was in South Queens.

“South Queens? Get someone over to his parents’ house to interrogate them, and get someone over to his house to search for anything regarding South Queens on it.”

“I have a property in South Queens,” I said, realizing the connection.

“You do?”

“Yeah, a rental. Wait, I’ll get the address.” I rushed to my office and pulled out the file. Rex followed me.

“It’s a warehouse on the pier.”

“Give me the address, I’ll send a unit.”

Rex left promptly and said he’d return as soon as he could, while communicating with another unit that interrogated Davenports’ parents and had the address of a girlfriend in South Queens to check out.

“You find her and check back with any information. I’m heading over to Corwynn’s warehouse.”

Anna held her rosary and mumbled prayers while Lilly stood at the window, wondering what else we could do. All summer long, Lilly had hoped this drama would be over with when they returned Angie to me, and now we were in the thick of it, and Lilly wasn’t certain if she should leave Angie with me or take her back to Florida with her and Casey tomorrow. Casey and Angie were very quietly taking it all in, and that concerned both Brandon and Lilly, who signaled that Brandon needed to distract the girls while my sister had it out with me.

“Come on, girls, let’s go get some ice cream,” said Brandon, trying to drag them out of the great room.

“Alex, let me take Angie home with me,” said Lilly not moving from the window. “This isn’t good, with this maniac on the loose. She needs someone to concentrate on her for a change, not your assistant who lives for drama.”

I took a deep breath and considered my reply before I said anything. Slowly I stood up and walked to the window, passing a praying Anna sitting in a chair, her beads hanging from her hand.

“Angie will be living with Brandon.”

“She’s what? Are you nuts?”

“C’mon Lilly, you’ve known Brandon for a long time. It’s not as if he’s a stranger.”

“But he’s gay, Alex.”

I knew that was going to come out of her mouth before I stood up, I knew before I told her of our plans that she’d object to my decision. My older sister disagreed with everything I did at one point or another. Lilly would only give me her approval when whatever I did panned out, but until then, I was always met with the look and attitude of a skeptic.

“Yeah, he is. We’ve known that for what, almost twenty years now, Lilly? I don’t think Brandon’s sexual orientation has anything to do with him being her guardian while she’s attending the fine arts school in Manhattan.”

“Manhattan? For what?”

“Art. Brandon pulled some strings down at the art school to get her in there. You’ve seen her work; Angie’s got promise when it comes to it.”

“So you’re going to give the daughter you hardly know to Brandon?

“Stop, this isn’t like giving a puppy away. She’ll spend Monday through Friday with Brandon and come home here on Friday night to be here until Monday morning. There, Brandon can keep on her with her studies. Her grades in the last couple of years have fallen dramatically, and we have work to do to get them back up. Right now, she’s on academic probation at the art school. I can’t be here 24/7 to keep an eye on her. I’m still commuting to Los Angeles.”

“You need to do something about that. Move that damn label here or sell it, Alex, but running across country all the time has got to stop. Damn it, Alex, you’ve had two heart attacks in the last two years and enough is enough. You had better slow down or you’ll end up in a grave, little brother.”

“Look, Lilly, I need Brandon to take her right now. She’s safer with him than me at the moment. As soon as you go tomorrow, I’m sending her to Brandon’s brownstone in Manhattan. She starts school on Monday anyway and has stuff to do for school before then.”

“But Brandon, of all people?”

“He’s an artist, he’s on the board of the art school, he lives three blocks from it, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from high school, college and with his Masters of Fine Arts. What more do you want from him, Lilly?”

Lilly shook her head and let out a deep sigh.

“You would be better about this arrangement if he was straight? A single straight man? C’mon, Lilly, get real already. You know Brandon. Jesus, he’s practically family, and he adores Angie, and whether you like it or not, the feeling is mutual. My mind is made up, and nothing you say will change it.”

Lilly said nothing and left me at the window while she went to the bar and reached inside for a bottle of tonic and made herself a gin and tonic. “I could take her home, you know.”

“Lil, listen, she’s all set up here. They’re both looking forward to this.”

“Fine, but if it doesn’t work out, then you can call me, and I’ll come get her. She’s a teenager, Alex. She’s not a ten-year-old with doe eyes that will do whatever you want. She’s a teenager who will rebel however possible whenever possible to get what she wants. Does Mom know of this?”

“She was better about it than you were,” I replied, ready for this conversation to end, to show my sister that she was being immature and impossible. Brandon and the girls returned to the great room with sundaes in their hands and Angie handed me the one she made me.

“You haven’t eaten, Daddy,” said Angie. The freckles on her tanned face had come out with their camping trip that summer, her hair cropped shorter looked so adorable on her. I had been here for an hour and hadn’t even realized until then that she had cut her hair, since I was all caught up in my worry for Megan.

“Thanks Angel, your hair looks cute like that,” I replied, kissing her forehead before reaching for the sundae. Angie sat cross-legged on the ottoman while I sat in the overstuffed chair and dug into my hot fudge sundae, which couldn’t be seen for the whipped cream and chopped peanuts she had on top of it. One thing for certain, my daughter had my taste in junk food. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Well, not as far as I was concerned.

Two hours later, Rex pulled in the driveway. I opened the door, knowing that something grave had happened to Meg, or Rex would have called.

“Did you find her?” I asked, opening the door for him. He stepped inside the foyer and my eyes focused on his stern countenance, telling me something wasn’t right, something was wrong, seriously wrong.

Rex nodded and handed me a Ziploc bag that concealed her cell phone with the bright pink cover, the one she bought so not to confuse our phones again.

“Is she—?”

“She’s at the hospital.”

“Let’s go!”

Rex grabbed my arm.

“Alex, she might not make it.”

“What did he do to her?”

“It’s more like what didn’t he do to her?”

“Oh God—” I stammered, “I need to see her.”

“C’mon, I’ll give you a police escort.”

“I’m driving,” said Brandon while Anna, who stayed with the girls and Lilly, said that she would pray.

“She’s in surgery, it will be a while before she’s out.”

“I don’t care, I have to go.” I kissed Angie, Lilly and Casey good-bye then Brandon drove us to the hospital.

When the resident met with us and told us the gravity of her condition, what they suspected and what they could do about it, Brandon and I sat in shock. Her lung had collapsed from his beating, and he broke her hands, her jaw, and cut her.

Searching the handsome Indian doctor’s coal eyes and fearing Davenport had done more to mar her face than the bruises and cuts he inflicted upon it before, I steadied myself before asking, “Where?”

“Her back.”

“God,” said Brandon, getting up and pacing again.

“He didn’t stab her, he cut her, purposefully. Where he didn’t burn her back, he cut her.

“Burn? With what?” I asked, wondering if he used something at my warehouse to damage her.

“We’re not sure. She has welts and blisters and burns all over her back and breasts. If she lives to tell the story, we’ll know more, but she was unconscious and in critical condition entering the surgery,” said the resident. As his beeper went off, he stood up to see the number on the pager attached to the waistband of the green surgical scrubs that he wore.

“I need to get back to Ms. Beal,” he said, getting up and shaking our hands before leaving us again.

Brandon walked me to the chapel where I sat and sobbed. What Davenport threatened he would do, he did when I let my guard down. This was my fault whether I wanted to accept it or not. I should have overridden Megan, told her emphatically she was going to have Mike or another bodyguard protecting her at all times. Unable to imagine what he could have done to her, what she looked like, if she was going to make it this time, or if we’d have another battle with her subconscious that chose to hide away in that blasted closet. I could do nothing but sit and wait.

When I got home, I’d remember to bring her CD player and Heartbeat CD’s. They always made her feel safe. She needed to know she’s safe now, no matter what. I was completely lost in thought when Brandon pulled something from his pocket and slipped it into my hand.

“It’s Meggy’s,” he said, as I looked down into my palm to see the black beaded rosary that he had pooled there. “When she gave up her closet, and she felt afraid, Meg would pray with this rosary until she wasn’t afraid anymore.”

I thumbed it. Brandon’s lip trembled as he tried to restrain his tears. He got up and hugged himself as he paced this time, only stopping before the lit votive prayer candles at the altar.

“Where did you find it?”

“Upstairs, under her pillow. Meg told me that she kept it there. I checked to see if it was still there, because if it wasn’t, that meant she was afraid and was carrying it on her.”

“Oh, so she had no idea that he was after her again?”

Brandon shook his head. “She got an acceptance letter to the MBA program this week.”

“She didn’t tell me.”

“She was saving it for a surprise.”

“Meg seemed better, the last few months.”

“I think she made great strides in her recovery.”

“I should call Ruby.” Within the hour that I had spoken to her, Ruby joined us at the hospital.

“They got him, Ruby. He can’t get out of this one.”

“He wasn’t going to get out of it anyway, but he just dug his grave even deeper this time.”

At two that morning, after Ruby had left us for the night, a resident found us in the chapel. He sat down with us.

“She’s out of surgery.”

“How is she?”

“Still critical. We’re moving her to ICU. In order to see her, because of the burns, you’ll have to gown and glove up.”

“When can we see her?”

“Soon, I’ll take you there. I think I need to explain a few things to you first. Ms. Beal cannot talk; he broke her jaw and its wired shut. He broke her hands and wrists; they are in casts. Her face is marred with bruises as is most of her body. Her back is covered in burns, which we think now is from a curling iron, and her back, we believe, he carved an R and a D into the length of it.

I clenched my jaw, feeling like I would retch at the thought of all the pain she endured. Maybe death would have been merciful for her.

Brandon gasped.

“There’s not much good to tell except that she’s alive. Another thing, her hair—”

“What about her hair?” I asked, unable to take much more news.

“We found long strands of hair in her wounds. Did she have long hair?”

I got up and walked to the chapel altar where candles were lit. Although my hand shook, I picked up the taper and lit a few more votive candles, all the while trying to contend with the part of me that wanted to kill Davenport and the part of me that wanted to sob like a baby.

Brandon explained how her hair hung to her buttocks. While I braced myself on the altar rail, my knuckles turned white as I tried to contain myself and pull it together just to see her.

Once I calmed down, Brandon and I followed the doctor to ICU. The bright fluorescent lights blared against the white walls and polished tile floor, so different from the soft glow of the dim lights and candles in the chapel.

As we entered ICU through the double doors, it seemed like the nurses’ station was in the hub of the wing, each glass cubicle like a spoke in a wheel. The doctor led us to the one at the end of the hall, directly across from the nurses’ station, and it seemed like all eyes were on us. The doctor explained to us how to glove and gown up, while my eyes stared at what I didn’t recognize on the opposite side of the room’s window. The woman lying there covered in bruises and bandages was supposed to be my assistant, my feisty and sexy Megan. Brandon had to help me put on the gown and mask as I stared at her bruised face and broken body, regretting that I had ever left her alone with that maniac still on the loose.

“He could have done this while you were home too,” said Brandon, intuitively knowing what I was thinking.

“I know.”

We entered her room. Asleep and hooked up to everything, it seemed all too much for me.

“Meg, it’s Alex and Brandon. You’re safe,” I said, hardly able to get it out over a whisper. Hardly a square inch of her face was the original pigment. Her hair was chopped short in uneven lengths above her shoulder while multi-colored wire and electrodes were stuck on the crown of her head for the machine behind spitting out paper with waves on it. Her arms in casts with only her fingertips exposed, I reached and touched the underside of them, thinking of her hands on my back with sunscreen, or the way she’d tease me with her fingers, doodling on my chest as I held her in the pool. Even if she survived this, I didn’t know if she would ever go back to being that Megan. My sexy Megan that bribed me with her body, the feisty assistant who would roll her eyes at me in the office, eyes now that were bruised and swollen shut.

Brandon talked to her, telling her that Angie was home and wanted her to come home soon that Anna loved her and was praying for her. The nurse came in to shoo us out before I could fully understand what he did to her. Before I left, I touched her cheek, wishing I could wipe the bruise away like it was one of her tears, promising her she’d never cry in pain again if she would just let me love her--if she could just find herself worthy enough to be loved.

“Megan, I love you. Please, get well. I need you, the foundation needs you.”

Hardly able to move from her bedside of my own volition, as if my feet were glued to the floor, Brandon led me out of there, and we sat out in the hall for much of the night, except for the five minutes we were permitted to see her each hour. Every hour, I expected that seeing her in that state would get easier, but it only got worse. I was angry with myself, angry at Davenport and angry with Megan who allowed herself to be in a relationship with a monster like that in the first place. The resident sent us home around six that morning, saying that she wouldn’t waken before evening even if she could, and for us to go back to get some rest. We went to Brandon’s brownstone since it was closer.

I slept in Angie’s bedroom that Brandon had beautifully redecorated with an Elizabeth Ashley ensemble and whitewashed pine furniture against soft amber walls and beige Berber carpeting. We woke around noon and Brandon made us some coffee while I called the hospital and Anna. He had been shopping for me that week and had a new pair of jeans and polo shirt for me. Before we left for the hospital again, Lilly called.

“Rex called, he wants you to call him,” Lilly said, giving me the phone number.

I explained Megan’s condition to Lilly who gasped at the thought of the torture she endured.

When I called Rex, he told me that they had in evidence the instruments Davenport used to assault her: a curling iron, a pair of scissors, and a pair of handcuffs. He wouldn’t get less than life for this if he killed her, Rex promised, and asked me to keep him posted on her condition.

When we returned to the hospital, she was upgraded to fair condition. The resident insisted that we only spend a few minutes with her and let her rest. I couldn’t believe how short Davenport had chopped up her hair. Wires were hooked up from her head to some machine spitting out paper with waves of lines on it. I couldn’t stand to be there, but I couldn’t stand not being in the room with her either.

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