Rats On A Roof Top
Rats On A Roof Top
James and I had been taking a bath when there was a knock on the door. James asked me to stay there as he got up, bubbles and all, covered himself with a towel, and walked to the door. I sat back and closed my eyes. I felt safe, free. No more looking over my shoulder or wonderment on when my time was going to be up. I was able to live in the then and the now. I felt happy.
I wanted to take over the business, then again, that was my initial plan, yet with Gaelan gone for over a week, I felt like I didn’t need to do it as much as I thought I would. I trusted that Francois would make the business his own and get out of the nonsense Gaelan put us all through.
I couldn’t just lie there as I heard yelled and arguing. I got out of the bath and made my way over to the front door, tightening my robe as I did. James was up against the wall with his hands up as Evan stood at the opening holding a gun to James’ head.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I asked.
“Did you know he was a rat?” Evan asked.
“Of course I knew he was a rat. Why do you think I killed Donnie and Deagan? Because it was fun? Or how I set Marshall up, it was to cover up his tracks,” I stepped closer.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Evan said, clenching his teeth.
“I just didn’t all right,” I touched Evan’s arm. “But that’s all over with now Evan, just put the gun down and we’ll pretend all of this never happened.”
“Yeah, did dad ever tell you who the real rat was?” Evan asked cocking the gun. I moved my hand away and looked over at James.
“Does that really matter now? He’s dead Evan, you killed him remember, who gives a shit who the rat was and who helped Gaelan make the business blossom, so to speak. Just put the gun down all right. No one else needs to be killed this week,” I said.
“Who gives a shit who the rat is anyway?” James said.
“I do,” Evan started. “I care because it was my man who went out there and is now missing. It was my man who stuck it out for eight years and now that the bastard of a leader is dead, my man is nowhere to be found. And I wanna know where he is.”
“Well, how the fuck should we know?” James asked. Evan pressed the gun into James’ forehead. Evan clenched his jaw as his finger lay on the trigger waiting for the right moment.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“His name was Stan. He was the inner eye for dad, he used to do the deals abroad and report to us before he reported to dad. Eight fucking years Lylie, eight! And what does he have to show for it? Nothing, because he’s nowhere. Not at home, not at work, not in some remote island. It’s like he vanished out of thin air.”
“What was he doing for Gaelan? And why didn’t I know of this man?”
“You didn’t know of a lot Lylie, dad wanted it that way because he knew you’d come around and take over. He wanted to leave his fucked up mess behind without you to deal with it. Except, this time, you’re going to have to because I have to find Stan. Why do you think he fucking cracked and lost his mind? When dad was dealing with Tommy, shit was so smooth and no fucking rats were involved. I was just a kid then, but I fucking remember. Simple fucking drug deals. Now look at it, it’s all over the place. Dad finally opened his eyes and freaked the fuck out.”
I had no idea who Evan was looking for or what the fuck he was getting at. I didn’t know of any informant of ours abroad or of any of my father’s men abroad. I do not think James even knew. All the files and papers I went through from Donnie to Deagan, and whatever James told me, not one of them stated the name ‘Stan.’ Half of the names on the list didn’t even ring a bell to me, they were merely numbers on a paper with money being transferred from their accounts to ours, all for some loving from those Asian girls. My father was definitely in deep this time.
Then it dawned on me, when I had walked in on Andy chopping up a man to pieces, I had no idea who he was, yet Gaelan said that he deserved it. The partial man lying on that table, eyes pleading for the end, had to have Stan. Though, I knew I couldn’t say anything to Evan, I was the one who shot his partner, for good reason obviously. Plus, I didn’t even know if it was him. He was like a lost puppy no one cares about, just how Gaelan wanted things to remain.
“We’ll look around all right. Just relax, I’ll call you later okay?” I said and put my hand on Evan’s arm once more. He slowly lowered the gun from James’ head and backed away. “Don’t worry about it okay,” I walked him to his car and tried to relax him. “Who is Stan anyway?”
“He’s my best friend Lyl, I’ve known him since I was a kid, I just can’t not look for him. I haven’t spoken to him in three months, ever since this job started and dad lost his mind. I don’t even know if dad knew he was a fed. He asked me to do background checks on everyone, but I made up Stan’s,” Evan said, putting his head down.
“But why? Why did you need Gaelan to know that Stan wasn’t a fed?” I tighten my bath robe, it may have been the end of summer, but fall was surely right around the corner.
“Because I was finally going to take him down.”
“I was finally going to end this nightmare. What dad’s been doing has gone on for too long. That’s why I put Stan in, to give me the intel before your little buddy over there gave it to the feds. I tried to make it look like I was one step ahead of him all this time. Clearly that backfired,” he said and fiddled in his jacket pocket for his keys.
“We’ll find him Evan, I’ll talk to Francois or something, we’ll figure this out. Just go home to Michelle, I’ll try you later,” I said and put my hand on his arm. He went in to hug me, tight I might add.
“God, I’m going to miss that accent,” he said, kissed my forehead, and got into his car. He looked over at James and winked. I watched as he drove off before I walked along the grass, the warm sun beaming on me, and back into the house I went. I shut the door and leaned my forehead on it.
“Fucking shit, your brother’s psycho!” James said.
“Half-brother, and I think I know where Stan is.”
“I thought you said you didn’t know him,” James said walking toward me, he took my arm and led us back to the bath. We got into the tub turning the water on, making the cold water warm again. What on earth did Evan mean I’m going to miss that accent? Was I another target on his list? Taking everyone out one by one? Another ‘phase’ in the book of Gaelan? I didn’t mention it to James because he’d just get on the defence and want to do something to Evan. But if Gaelan’s reign of terror was over, I was surely going to try and do something before everything came crumbling down upon all of us. I couldn’t stand there and do nothing.
“I think he was the man that Gaelan was chopping up at Mario’s, I’m sure of it. Gaelan said that he deserved it when I put the poor guy out of his misery. I just never put two and two together. I don’t understand why I wouldn’t know about this guy. I can’t even ask anyone about it they’ll think I knew him as a rat and not as a worker.”
“Francois already knows about me and all the shit we’ve been doing,” James stated, rubbing my arms. “What do you think Evan will do when he finds out?”
“That’s if he finds out. I don’t think I want to tell him. I’ll come up with some bogus about him being on the down low until all the shit blows over. Like Marshall wanted for us.”
“You think he’d buy that?”
“Let’s hope so right,” I said and rested my head on James’ chest.
“Did you really tip off the feds about the deal?” I asked, still in the tub relaxing.
“What do you mean? Marshall knew about it, that’s pretty much it.”
“Who did you call then?” I asked.
“I called Marshall and told him the deal was that night. The phone was untraceable, I didn’t say where we were or anything. Fuck I was barely on the phone for more than thirty-seconds. If that.”
“Are you lying to me?” I sat up and turned to face him.
“No, I’m done lying to you. You know everything there is to know Lylie. Everything. I would never put your life in jeopardy like that, you know this. I had a bad feeling something was going to happen at the last meeting I had with Marshall, the one where I left you a note in the morning, I didn’t want to wake you. Marshall said that Gaelan had an inside man that told him everything, here I thought it was Donnie, but we now know it’s Evan.”
“But we all know that Evan is our inner ear, so what are you getting at? This whole thing was a set up?” I shook my head and watched as the bubbles slowly burst and mended with the water.
“It really looks like it.”
“It just doesn’t make any sense. He hated the fact that Gaelan was a criminal, Evan always said the only reason he went into the FBI was so piss off Gaelan, so what, now he has a change of heart and wants to take over the family business?” my mind clicked and I finally realized why Evan was doing what he was going. Why Gaelan was acting so insane lately, chopping up people, trafficking young women, it was all to get Evan more involved, to see if he could push his son’s buttons. Clearly, it had worked right? Or was it just to push mine? Gaelan was dead and the throne was empty, all it needed was a leader, someone who had it all without needing to start from scratch. Evan was perfect. He was planted in with the feds, he knew every single person my father ever made contact with, everyone around town was scared of Evan because he was Gaelan’s son. No one ever got out of my way for me, or ever feared me, they looked and laughed because I was the trollop who worked for Gaelan, not his son, the one who’d take over. That was my job, I wanted to take over, I wanted to win. I needed it. The only problem was Evan, standing in my way.
For the rest of the day I wondered what I should do about the whole stupidity with Evan and his partner Stan. I didn’t know anything about the man, only that the first and last time I ever saw him, he was naked, had no arms or legs and I chose to kill him, to take him out of the misery my father put him in. Do I wish I had found out who he was before, perhaps, it would have been nice to have been more involved with the business than my father allowed me to, but what could I do? It seemed like Gaelan never wanted me in on the business, like he wished I had never picked up the phone and called him after my mother Rose had passed, or was killed, which ever. I could never confirm my pondering on the matter, but I knew that there was something there that Gaelan did not want me to have been a part of. Which was why I missed out on so much in the business, why I was kept in the dark for nearly all things but the sex aspect of it.
“What are you going to do Lylie?” James asked as he watched me put a light pink dress on.
“Well, There’s only one thing I can think of and that’s seeing Evan and just confronting him with all of this stuff. Telling him to back off because he has no place in this business, Gaelan’s son or not.”
“Yeah? And what if he arrests you?”
“He can’t do that, not with all the dots connecting the two of us together. Evan’s smarter than that. The feds already sniff down his neck with every move he makes because Gaelan’s our father. Evan’s slowly becoming the monster we all hate and love.”
“You going to tell him about Stan?” James asked as he followed me out of his room and to the front door.
“I don’t know. I don’t even really know what I’m going to say, everything is all scrambled in my head and I just want all of this to be over with and—”
“Let’s run. Leave tonight, no one needs to know about where we’re going, we don’t even have to pack. We can leave now. Lylie, please?”
“James, I love you, I do, but I have to do this last thing all right. Let me do this and I’ll come back and discuss this option further.”
“I promise, I’ll come back,” I kissed James and walked out the door.
The sun hit my face as I made my way to the car. James stood at the door and watched as I drove off, I didn’t know why he didn’t want to come with me. Evan couldn’t really do anything of the sort to James seeing as how they were both cops. Maybe James was right, maybe it was time to just get out while everything was fucked up and out of control. It seemed like running was the best option for the both of us. We didn’t have Marshall around anymore for witness protection but I didn’t think we needed it due to the fact that Gaelan was out of the picture. Losing him was sad because not only was I an orphan, but I lost a father. He may not have been there for me like Francois was in the father figure department, but we still shared the same DNA. Then again, losing Gaelan was my chance to become a better person. To either get out of the business or to take it and make it bloom.
I finally made it to Evan’s, crossing the bridge was always a hassle especially with the sun setting and nearly blinding every driver on the bridge. I left the car with the valet and made my way up to the front door. I must have buzzed for nearly fifteen minutes before someone walked out of the condo complex and I was able to get in. The place felt deserted, not even the sent of other people’s cooking could be smelt in the hallways nor the sound of people talking. That was exactly what I hated about condos or apartments or any public housing unit. A house was always the safest and most private place to reside. No one to hassle with, no one banging on the floor or ceiling telling you to shut up. Though, the condo seemed very well insulated, it still gave me the heebie-jeebies.
The elevator was spotless and had no ventilation. The only proof, aside from the woman who opened the door and allowed me to come in, was the stench of sweaty feet. I wasn’t even able to make it half way to the penthouse before I had to get off on the ninth floor and hurl. There must have been some virus going around because I have never puked that much in my life in such a small period of time. God, I hated puking. I took the stairs to the top floor before I had to get back into the elevator and take it to the penthouse, since the stairs had a lock on the door, which only gave the owner access to the penthouse.
I reached the penthouse and knocked on the door, but again, no answer. I tried Evan’s phone and I heard it ring inside. I knocked like a maniac, hoping that maybe Evan or his wife would come to the door, but no answer. I knocked once more and just decided to head back to James’ place and leave Evan a message.
“Hey Evan, I stopped by your place just now, just wanted to talk to you about some stuff that we didn’t really get to finish talking about earlier. Uh, yeah, so anyway, I’ll be at James’ place if you wanna talk or whatever..um, God, I’m really bad at leaving messages…yeah, so I guess I’ll talk to you later, bye.”
Definitely a waste of time. I walked down the hallway and stood at the elevator doors. I wondered where Evan could be. Maybe at work, probably at work because he never listened to me. Something did not feel right, like something was off, something in the puzzle didn’t fit. I knew I had to get home to James incase my gut feeling was right and Gaelan wasn’t the only target that week.
As I got into the car I sped over to James’ place, not realizing that I needed to gas up, but I figured it would be an issue for a later time. Of course, I was stuck on the bridge yet again, with just under a quarter tank of gas. However, all I cared about was getting home. I should have just listened and left when I had the chance. Evan was up to no good and I couldn’t do anything about it. All I wanted was James, when I thought about ruling, all I could see was James and I at the throne. But what if my focus on getting things to a better state were just fantasies? I was ready, I was ready to run with the love of my life. The anxious feelings, and looking over my shoulder every five minutes needed to end. I was coming home and finally able to be free.
I sped down the road and slammed on the breaks as I reached his house. Darkness was slowly starting to set in as I stepped out of the car and walked onto the lawn. Everything around me was silent, no children on the street, no cars driving past, no dogs barking or birds chirping. I felt deserted again. The front door was slightly open as walked up to it.
“James?” I asked hesitantly. I slowly pushed the door open, the faint squeak gave shivers throughout my body. “James?”
I stepped in and left the door open behind me as I immediately went towards his bedroom, a suitcase rest open on the unmade bed. The washroom had the drawers open but nothing had been taken out yet. I passed the front door again and thought maybe he was in the kitchen, but as that thought process went through my mind, all I saw was James lying face first on the ground in a pool of blood in the living area.
I felt like I just ran and hit a brick wall. My whole body froze and tensed up. I knew I must have been dreaming, that all of what I was seeing, couldn’t have been real. I ran over and tried to lift him up, I shook him, I hit his back. He wasn’t moving. A gun rested in the blood, and I don’t know why I did it, but I picked up the gun and continued to look around the house. Tears flowed down my face and I was unable to see in front of me most of the time. I walked from room to room making sure the killer was gone. There was no one there. I dropped the gun at my feet as I went back over to James. I lifted his head and put it on my lap. His sweet face, his sweet lips, all remained lifeless. Blood begun to seep its way onto my dress and I held him and cried, just like that little girl’s mother whom Gaelan killed. I was ready for someone to do to me what they had done to James.
Sirens wailed in the distance, I turned as they continued to get closer and closer. I kissed James’ lips, and for some reason, the urge to run was what was going through my mind. I took off my wedges and ran out the door toward the car, not thinking about the lack of gas inside it. The cop cars and ambulance got closer and closer as I ran to the car. I was drenched in blood and my finger prints were all over the crime scene.
“Get out of the car and put your hands up,” one officer yelled over the intercom as the car sped toward me. I ignored it and slammed on the gas pedal, making my way passed the cars and onto an empty street. My heart raced and made me out of breath. Why was I running? I hit the steering wheel out of frustration and anger. I left the one I loved over stupid bullshit that had everything to do with Gaelan and his decisions. He was dead because of me and my urge and need to rule. I should have just listened when I had the chance. Why did I need the throne so badly?
I averted taking the Brooklyn bridge and headed for Jersey, maybe there was a way of escaping, I didn’t know what I was thinking or doing, I just drove. I didn’t even know what I was going to do or where I was going to go. I honestly had no one to trust.
The only thing racing in my mind was James’ face. He was right there in my arms, yet he wasn’t. I finally had my chance to escape and I ignored it and denied it all that time and for what? To have him killed. To see him lying in his own blood and I was probably going to be the primary suspect. I gripped the steering wheel and started crying. There was nothing I could do anymore, nothing but escape and live the life James wanted me to live. I couldn’t help but scream, all the rage built up inside me came pouring out. I screamed to the thought of never seeking revenge, screamed to the thought of being alone. I screamed because it was no one’s fault but my own.
The gas light came on and started to ding. I could hear the cops nearby but none of them were around. What was I going to do, gas up? The animal instinct to flee when one was in danger came rushing through me, but I should have stayed. The car stopped, I got out, and started to run. The George Washington bridge was just out of reach. I ran until I heard the cops come closer. I took a few deep breaths, and headed for the water. As I ran for the water, cop cars turned a corner and headed straight for me. A helicopter appeared over the tall buildings and shone a light on the ground. I ran for the water and dove in. The water was cold and stung my body as I kicked as fast and as hard as I could. I moaned and I winced, I felt like my body was jello, like I was swimming in a vat of cement trying to get to out before it hardened. I stopped in the water and looked around me. Cop cars made their way over to the bridge, the helicopter shining its light not too far behind me. Another cop standing by the car and shining his light in the dark water. I had to move on. I had no choice. It was either rot in prison, or run and seek revenge. I should never have trusted my instincts. I took a deep breath and went on.
I spotted the Little Red Lighthouse and thought that it would be a good place to stay and hopefully remain unnoticed. I dragged myself out of the water, nearly slipping and falling on the rocks beneath my bare feet. My bloody dress stuck to me like a piece of tape. The helicopter and sirens wailed in the distance as I attempted to make my way to the lighthouse. The grass beneath my feet felt cold, and mucky, but I pushed on and ran to the opening. My lungs hurt and felt like I was choking with my strive to find a breath.
I pushed open the door, falling to the ground, and kicked it shut. I lay there, gasping for air, shivering on this cold September night. Mascara was leaking down my face as I rubbed my eyes, leaving residue on my hands. I lay there staring at the top of the lighthouse, the spiral of stairs and my dizziness made the impression of being as though I was looking into a kaleidoscope. My breathing slowed but my heart still pounded in my ears. I knew I didn’t kill James. I wasn’t even there for Christ’s sake. I wonder who did? Could it have been Evan? Was that why he wasn’t at home? Francois wouldn’t do that to me, would he? I mean, he did ask James to kill me, but why would he kill James? I had told him that James was a rat and the son of Tommy Harding, but that was no reason to kill him. James did a lot for the business and Francois trusted him, so I thought. Right when I tell Francois everything that was going on, James ends up dead. All these thoughts of insanity spun around my head like a shark would its prey. Again, I knew I had to run, the sweet taste of revenge needed to touch my lips.
Sirens grew closer and closer. They must have put two and two together and made their way to the other side of the water. I couldn’t stay in the lighthouse much longer. They would obviously search it. I stood rather quickly, putting my head against the door, trying to catch my balance and lose the black dots in my eyes. Tears formed and fell to the ground, how desperately I wanted to scream and cry and get all the frustration, anxiety, and madness out of my system. I didn’t even have the chance to snap into the fact that James was really gone.
I opened the door and bolted for the street. Cop cars wailed nearby, though I did not know if they spotted me as I made it off the mucky grass and onto the asphalt. I was already on my last whim, wanting to give in, and let them take me. I ran as hard and as fast as I could. A car was headed right toward me as I kept on. At that point, there was no escape. The cop yelled over the intercom, over and over for me to stop. He pulled the car up and got out, both he and his partner started to run after me. I didn’t know if I was able to keep going.
I headed for Fort Tryon Park, where I knew I’d be able to hide. Blisters and cuts formed on the bottoms of my feet. I ran into the park and up the stone steps. I started to wheeze as the sirens grew near and men howled like dogs for me to come out. I crawled into a bush and remained hidden. I had to catch my breath again as I curled up into a ball and lie in a pile of dirt, old and new leaves. I closed my eyes and focused on one thing, finding James’ killer. How I was going to get out of the park and away from the cops, I didn’t know, but what I did know, was that I would soon be able to rest without worry of someone trying to kill me. I knew that they would all pay.
“Do we even know she did it?” one of the cops said as they walked near where I was. One cop stood on the bottom stone step and shone a flash light around the area. I remained hidden.
“I don’t know we got a call about a murder, she runs out of the house covered in blood, and takes off. We spot her again and she still runs. Something tells me she’s guilty,” the other cop said. They shined the light a little more. “Fuck it, it’s not like we’ll find her in here at night.
“It’s not like they pay us enough to do it either,” they started walking away.
“Did you know the guy was Tommy Harding’s kid? Most likely it was a way of those fucking pricks trying to get back at Harding for something.”
“Y’hear about Gaelan? Fucker got a bullet to the head at one of his deals. Evan found the guy and…” the cop’s voice faded out.
I sat up, took a few deep breaths, and poked my head out to make sure they were gone. I slowly stepped out of the bush and continued to walk through the park. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go but I knew I had to get as far away as possible. I tried to run, but the blisters on the bottoms of my feet stung and felt like I was walking on shards of glass. I limped my way as fast and as quietly as possible. At the other end of the park, I hailed a cab, and got in.
“Where to little lady?” the cab driver asked as he turned around. “Jesus, what happened to you? Are you all right?”
“Yeah, yeah, totally fine. Just wanted a night swim is all.”
“But you’re bleeding?”
“No, no, that’s wine—can you take me to Brooklyn. There’s this little shop near the bureau. Solitude or something.”
“Solitude? Yeah,” the cab driver interrupted me. “You sure you’re okay?
We drove and listened to classical music, the calming effect it had. When I was younger I always played classical music when I needed to get out of my head and away from the shitty life I had. When my mother had one of her client’s over, I’d curl up in my bed and blast anything ‘Mozart’ or ‘Beethoven’ through my headphones. It always made me feel alive and feel like I was free, like what was going on in the next room was nothing but a nightmare. A nightmare I had to endure more than I intended too.
I realized that coming all the way from Brooklyn to New Jersey then New York was a waste of time, no wonder my body ached and felt like it was beaten half to death. Why I thought it would be a good idea was beyond me. In a moment of panic, I ran and thought it would keep me safe, but look at me. I ran from nothing to nowhere. The George Washington Bridge was practically blocked off as the cops were checking each car, looking for me. The cab driver drove over to the Brooklyn Bridge, he kept looking at me through the rearview mirror before saying anything.
“They out looking for you little lady?” he asked. I remained silent and slowly sunk into the seat. “I won’t tell on yeah or nothing.”
“I’d rather not saying anything if you don’t mind. I just don’t want anyone to get involved that need not be involved.”
“Should I be scared? I never trusted Brit’s, no offence.”
“Believe me you have nothing to worry about, I didn’t do anything. They set me up, those fucking dicks set me up after everything I did for them,” my voice cracked. I started to cry and sunk into the seat some more trying to stay out of sight. He let me have my little moment. Those eyes that kept peering at me through the mirror, they looked so familiar, so inviting. Though, I tried to focus on how I would escape the God forsaken city I was forced to stay in, once and for all. I thought about maybe heading back home, back to England; if I was able to pass security obviously. I wanted to go some place that I felt made me happy. I could try California, put my feet in the sand, and get in with the guys over there; see if they’ll accept me even though I turned down their offer more than once. That would be nice. Living by the ocean and never having to worry about cold weather or all the mistakes I’ve made in Brooklyn and England. Start fresh, new, like nothing ever happened. Wouldn’t that be something?
“You Gaelan’s kid?” he asked, after sitting in silence for some time.
“Excuse me?” I sat up.
“You are aren’t you. We go way back your father and I. Your mother too, what a beauty she was. Gaelan and I used to cruise the streets of Chicago and sell drugs then we got in with the big guys in New York, until I got hurt and wanted to get out but your father didn’t, he wanted it all, as he should have. So here I am, a cab driver,” he started. “How’s he doing?”
“How the fuck did you recognize me?” I was scared. What if that cab driver was one of Gaelan’s men I didn’t know about and he was there to kill me? I mean he was the only cab in the park area when I needed one.
“Gaelan talked about you all the time. Seen him just last year by accident at a bar, Mario’s, didn’t know he owned it. Yup, showed me pictures of you and your mom. Sad thing about your mom, she was such a beautiful woman. Of all the cab’s you chose mine. What a coincidence huh?”
“Yeah, what a coincidence,” I was frightened and felt uncomfortable.It seemed as though he was following me or waiting for me in that park.
We stopped at a red light in front of the bureau. I looked at the door and thought of opening it and running, but my feet hurt so badly that I was scared I wouldn’t even make it to the sidewalk. The man looked happy that he had finally met me. Though it still frightened me that his cab was the only one in the area. It was clear that Gaelan had more men than I thought in his back pocket. What if the cab driver was one of them, waiting for me to make my big move? Even dead, Gaelan had his own way of making me angry. Only thing was, how did the man know Gaelan and my mother? He could be…?
The light was still on at Solitude as the cab driver stopped in front of it. I inhaled, getting ready to burst out of the cab, due to lack of money on me.
“This one’s on me kiddo,” he said, as he turned. I flinched and reached for the door handle. “Hey, I mean you no harm. If you ever need a lift or anything here, give me a call.” He dropped a business card though the opening.
“Why are you being so helpful?” I asked, hand still on the door handle.
“I got a kid about your age, maybe a little older. He’s a cop, total opposite of what the family business is, but to each his own. I haven’t heard from him in over four years, don’t know if he’s alive or dead. Just want to look out for my old friend’s kid if I can’t for my own,” he said. I took the business card and nodded. “You take care little lady.”
I stepped out of the cab and he drove off. I looked down at the card, Thomas Harding was what I read. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Tommy Harding. I couldn’t believe that I was just in the car with the man who betrayed my father and I acted as though I gave two shits about him. The story I knew, was that Tommy slept with my father’s ex-wife Lisa, but listening to Tommy’s story, it seemed like it was otherwise. He was James’ father no doubt, they had the same eyes. I chocked up a little as I held the card in my hands.
I couldn’t believe how much was happening in such a short amount of time. I felt like I was sitting and watching everything flash before my eyes. The coincidence was uncanny, I knew it was a set up from the beginning, Evan coming over, the lack of gas in my car, James being murdered and I as the killer, Tommy Harding waiting for me. I didn’t know what Gaelan had up his sleeve but I knew that it wasn’t good and I knew that his death was for reason. Maybe Evan wanted to take over, maybe Francois wanted me dead so he could take over, or worst of all, maybe killing James was Tommy’s way of making a comeback.
I turned to the store and knocked on the window seeing as how the door was locked. Jeffrey appeared from behind the counter and smiled. He strutted over and unlocked the door.
“Is everything all right?” he asked.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but—”
“Darling please, come in. Of course I remember you. Stupid boyfriend who kicked you out right?” He locked the door behind me and walked us over to the back of the store. “Is that blood?”
“It’s a long fucking story. I just need a place to hide out for the night, a change of clothes would be perfect too. If that’s all right?” I asked and rubbed my hands over my arms. Goose bumps covered my body in the ice box of a store.
“Tell Jeffrey. Baby, what happened?” He sat down on the couch by the dressing rooms and handed me his sweater. I sat down next to him and started to cry. “Oh baby, let it out. That’s right, just let it all out.”
“You wouldn’t understand the stress and insane bullshit I’ve had to endure all my life,” I started, my voice cracked but I need to get it out. So, we sat there and I spoke and I spoke, and I told him everything from beginning to end. I knew I shouldn’t have said anything to him, he did not need to be put in that situation, but I needed it to come out before I lost my mind. He just sat there and listened to the whole thing, barely blinked, barely nodded. Just listened. “Now I don’t know what to do.”
“I think you should hide darling. Change your appearance, change your hair color, even try to take away that pretty accent of yours, if you can. Stay with me tonight and let Jeffrey help you out baby.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to get involved or get hurt when you don’t need to be,” I sat up right and looked at the door. There was someone standing at it, knocking, and looking inside. “Are you expecting anyone?
“Hide back there,” Jeffrey stood and walked over to the door. I went into one of the dressing rooms and crouched down, leaving the curtain open just enough to see what was going on. Jeffrey turned to see if he could see me before he unlocked the door. “Can I help you sir?” The man pushed Jeffrey out of the way and stormed into the store. “Excuse me!”
“Lylie?” the voice sounded familiar, but I was too scared to come out.
“Excuse me sir, but you have to leave now before I call the police,” Jeffrey walked over to the counter and took his cell phone.
“Where is she?” the man grabbed Jeffrey’s arm.
“Look sir, I do not know who you are talking about. This is my shop and it is after closing time. Could you please leave,” Jeffrey glanced over at me. The man pushed Jeffrey and headed in my direction.
“Lylie! Just come out, you can trust me. I just called Francois and he told me what happened to my son,” the man started crying. I stood and came out, walking over to Tommy. “Why would they do that?”
“You have to leave Tommy, it’s not safe to be near me right now. Please,” I said, my voice cracked a little.
“I can get you some place safe. You have to trust me,” Tommy said and took my hands. “Please trust me.” The look in his eyes reminded me of James. I turned to Jeffrey who stood at the counter holding a pen up as a weapon. “They killed my baby boy.”
“I don’t know you, I can’t just leave with you when there are people out there looking for me, including the cops. How do I even know I can trust you? You called Francois, who still wants me dead I might add. My father spoke of you like you were a rodent, a no good piece of shit who slept with his wife and got her pregnant. How do I know you won’t just stab me in the back the first chance you get, as revenge for Gaelan?” I stepped back.
“I didn’t do that, honest. All I did was help her try to get away from him like your mother. He beat her and beat her when he knew she was pregnant with his kid. I was just looking out for the little one that’s all. Gaelan shot me,” Tommy pulled his collar out and showed a scar on his collarbone. “I got out because he lost his mind. I didn’t want anything to happen to either of you.”
What was he talking about? Was there nothing my father ever told me that was true? Was everything a lie? I felt my body start to shake. I wasn’t sure whether to trust him or not. Though, if everything he was saying was true, then should I trust him?
“Lylie, just go,” Jeffrey said. “He is the father of the love of your life. Go and protect that little thing you have inside of you before it’s too late. Think about it darling,” Jeffrey said and smiled. ‘Little thing’ inside me? Could I have been? I mean there was the puking constantly, but that was about it. I stopped working for my father for a couple of months now, and I got my period last month. Then again, James and I did have a lot of unprotected sex, but I was on the pill so that shouldn’t have made a difference. I suddenly got dizzy and put my hand out to Tommy. Jeffrey came from around the counter and brought a chair for me to sit on. “Let me grab you some clothes.”
“This can’t be, I don’t understand,” tears rolled down my cheeks.
“I’ll get you some place safe little lady, don’t you worry,” Tommy said.
“I was planning on going to the guys in Cali, they’ve been asking for me to transfer there for a while but Gaelan always refused. I was his little puppet.”
“I have this place in Bermuda, my wife and girls stay there, only place they’re safe from everything,” Tommy started. “I haven’t spoken to them in over six months, but I know she’ll gladly help you out, at least until everything calms down, then you have to figure out if you’re going to come back or stay hidden.”
“Why does it seem like you’ve had all of this planned?” I asked and stood. “Like you’ve been waiting for me to need an escape.”
“After I seen your father last year, I knew that you must have been living like hell, compared to your mother. I tracked you down and I made sure to stay a step ahead of you, I followed you everywhere. And I know, I know it sounds really bad, but I just wanted you and my son to be safe.”
I didn’t know what to say. The man whom I feared because of my father and the stories he had told me of how Tommy was out to get him and how Tommy would slice my father’s throat of he ever got in his path. It was all just a lie.
“Did you tell Francois where I was?” I asked, as Jeffrey came back with a bunch of clothes.
“No, he just said what happened to Chris,” Tommy folded his arms. Chris, it was weird hearing James’ real name. How I missed him already, the pain and heart ache of never being able to hold him again, made my eyes water. Though I tried to hide it, Jeffrey came over and hugged me, pile of clothes in one of his arms, while the other was around me.
“The fact that you called Francois is what will make him suspicious. Tommy I don’t know if I can just up and leave with you, I think I might be better off on my own so that no one gets hurt in the end because no one will know where I am,” I took the clothes from Jeffrey.
“They already don’t know where you are Lylie, you’ll be safe, I promise,” he put his hand on my shoulder. “You can’t go to California either, those men still work for your father. No matter how badly they wanted you over there, and no matter if Gaelan is dead or not, he still has those men wrapped around his finger. I promise, nothing will happen to you.”
I didn’t know what to do, my head started spinning, I felt so lost and confused. I stared at the exit. How busy the street was for the time of night. Cars going back and forth, people walking past laughing, talking, focusing on a lit screen. I looked over at Tommy; I wasn’t sure whether to trust him or not. James never spoke of his father, he never told me if he was alive or dead. The only way I was able to figure out who James’ father was, I had to kill for the answer and even when I found out who James really was, he still never spoke of his father. He focused on his mother, whom he lost not too long ago, yet his father was still alive all this time. I wonder if James hid Tommy from me because of my father. I mean, Gaelan did say that he was using James because Tommy owed my father one. Although, at that moment, I didn’t know what to do or who to trust. My mind was scrambled. I felt like I was at a fork in the road and had to make a decision on which road to choose to determine the remainder of my life. There was Tommy, the road less travelled on, the easy way out. Though the road less travelled on could be dangerous, and if Jeffrey’s suspicion was right and I was pregnant, then I needed to choose the path that kept me safe. Then there was the second route, which would be the busy road, where I’d be alone to figure my own way out. That also could be very dangerous since there were people after me. I’d have to travel with the clothes on my back and pray to God I didn’t get into trouble.
I wasn’t sure if either of the choices were the best ones. I wondered if that was how my mother felt when she first had me and decided to run away to England. She was also on her own because if she was caught, my father would’ve had her killed.
Running with me close to her chest all the way to England, looking over her shoulder every step of the way. I wondered if she ever felt that way when we were at my grandparents’; constantly keeping an extra eye open, making sure we were safe. My mother never really told me about everything that happened and how she travelled to England without my father even knowing she left. The only thing she ever told me was that she left the monster of a man and travelled to England to be with her parents. Seemed pretty simple and easy to me.
In all honesty, I hoped I wasn’t pregnant so that I wouldn’t have to worry about someone, some innocent little thing that was brought into this world unintentionally and forced to keep their eyes open until everyone who was after their mother was gone. I knew I wasn’t though, I didn’t take great care of myself. I smoked like a chimney and barely ate. I must’ve been sick from all the craziness happening. I nodded and looked up at Tommy.
“You coming little lady?” Tommy said, Jeffrey walked over.
“You keep her safe, and you call me darling, every chance you get.”
“Wait, who says I’m not staying here with you?” I said to Jeffrey. “And how can I trust you? Aside from whatever stories I’ve heard, I don’t even know you. How do I know you won’t kill me the second we’re alone?” Tommy stepped forward and put his hand to my face.
“Little do you know Lylie, I’ve been around longer than you think. Your mother asked me the night she died to always look out for you. Especially if you found her letter and went to see Gaelan.”
“Wait a second,” I started. I remembered finding a photograph of Gaelan and my mother the day before my sixteenth birthday. Though I never really looked closely at the photograph, I just remembered seeing my mother in our birthday suits with a man who resembled my father. What if that man was Tommy, I mean, I had called Gaelan not too long after and he seemed kind of surprised to hear my voice. Could that have been why my mother was killed? Tommy and my father clearly had a feud, something of which neither of them explained an actual reasoning behind, and probably never will. “Where you and my mother…?”
“Gaelan knew I loved her but he took her from me, then she had you, and you were the most beautiful baby. Rose asked me to leave with her because she couldn’t handle your father and all the shit he was making her do. Gaelan knew I loved her, but he got her pregnant just to spite me. I asked Rose again and again to run away with me, but she knew he’d track her down and kill her. When she had you, nothing else mattered as long as you weren’t raised by that maniac. She was my Chicago Sweetheart and he destroyed her. She came to me the night she left and asked me to go with her,” he wiped a tear from his eye. “I just couldn’t go Lylie, I couldn’t wait for her forever either. My late ex Gloria had my boy a few months prior. I loved Rose with all of my heart, and I made sure she never went without, even though you weren’t my child. But somewhere in-between, all that money was lost or stollen, I knew Gaelan had something to do with it too.”
“Why didn’t you come to her funeral or come to visit? Or help me when I needed it most?” I chocked up a little. “I was lost and alone when she died. We had nothing and I was left with nothing. If you say you cared for my mother and I, then why did you let me go to him?”
“I’m sorry, Lylie. I knew it was Gaelan’s doing and I wanted to stay as far away as possible from all the business. I was scared something was going to happened to my family,” Tommy said. Sirens wailed outside and a cop car sped past the shop. Jeffrey grabbed a bag and took the clothes from me to fold them up.
“This is all too much,” I said.
“I’ve always been there Lylie. I’ve always been looking out for you. So please. Let’s leave,” he sounded just like James, or James sounded just like him, which ever. I always said no to James, I was never smart enough to say yes. I always wanted to say yes, but my selfishness took the best of me and look at where that had brought me.
“Okay,” I said. I decided to choose the road less travelled on. Jeffrey hugged me once more.
“Thank you for choosing me to come to when you needed help. I’ll always be here for you baby,” he handed Tommy the bag.
“I guess I’ll call you wherever I end up.”
Tommy walked me out of the store. “Don’t worry little lady, you’re in good hands,” he said and took car keys out of his pocket. I smiled and fixed the sweater around me. We walked to his car in silence. I wasn’t really sure what to say to him after absorbing all the new information and not really sure what to do with it. I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be. Tommy opened the passenger door to his cab for me, then walked around the car to get in himself. I turned my head to look at Solitude, Jeffrey had turned all the lights off and was nowhere in sight. Tommy got into the car and started the engine. I smiled as he looked over at me.
“Hang on tight little lady.”