Edward watched the woman hastily escape from his presence and out of the bar. He barely glimpsed the other woman she gave her goodbyes to, peeking through the growing crowd, but he eventually conceded and moved toward the bar for another martini. He slipped to the far rounded corner and beckoned to one of the male servers, pointing to the vodka on the shelf. The server grabbed the bottle from the shelf, scooped some ice into a cup and approached him.
After fixing his drink, Edward slowly sipped and surveyed the bar again. This 'Ellen' woman had caught him off guard with her sudden change of attitude. He had caught her blatantly staring at him, even when he was looking back. The chances of meeting a challenge tonight seemed slim but she didn't disappoint. Her body language was relaxed when he came over and gave her that shit excuse.
It's worked on other escorts, why not a random woman? He thought inwardly.
He anticipated her inviting him to have a seat, laugh at some jokes and then maybe hint at taking her home. But it was just the opposite. She barely looked him in the eye and at the last second, she seemed to change personalities. It ticked him off. He had a way with women but this was obviously something more. She recognized him from somewhere.
Maybe I've slept with her already and she played it off?
What if she was actually an escort?
Questions ran through his mind a million a second. He couldn't recall her face. Well, I'm usually shitfaced the next morning.
Remembering their faces wasn't something he practiced on one night stands. But this one he would keep a close eye on. He was bound to see her again. He finished his second martini, set the glass on the bar counter and ventured into the crowd. He couldn't forget his intention tonight. He was trailing Judge Martin, the man who was responsible for putting Marcus in prison. He saw Martin sitting in the small VIP section closest to the stage. He sported a regular black and white suit that was now covered in beer by one of the escort girls attending to him. He fanned her away with a sharp flick of his wrist as he tried to dry his suit with napkins.
The VIP section was separated from the stage and the dance floor by a short red rope tied to two golden stands. Edward unhooked one side, slipped it back and turned around. Martin eyed him warily but slid over to make space. Edward closed the small distance between them and took a seat. Up close, Martin could have been his father, being sixty-seven years old and all. But Edward didn't quite care about that right now. He slanted his body towards Martin and smiled.
"It's funny seeing you here, Judge Martin" He stated lowly.
Martin rolled his eyes and peered at him from the corner of his eyes.
"Usually the clubs half a state over don't know who I am," the old man answered cautiously. "It's funny seeing you here too, someone I don't know?"
Edward nodded. "Actually, you know my friend"
"Then why are you approaching me?"
"Well...I know your daughter, Lily"
At the mention of her name, Martin froze. He glanced around the club at the people dancing, no one taking keen note of the two men's exchange. Martin focused his attention back to Edward.
"How do you know my daughter?"
Edward laughed. "I'm the one who took her," he teased.
Martin frowned. "You son of a bitch-"
"No, no," Edward cut him off. "Wrong response. Try again"
Edward could feel the air around them becoming tense and Martin tightened his hands to fists. If it came to a fistfight, he wasn't worried. He'd taken on more than anyone in this room knew.
"You must be stupid to come here to confess to kidnapping my daughter," Martin swore. "Where have you taken her?"
"That's another wrong question, Martin"
Edward stared into Martin's eyes.
"I don't understand, what your saying is shit, where is my--what the-"
Martin's sentence was cut off as Edward slid up next to him and the sharp edge of a knife touched his lower back. The old man became silent, clenching and unclenching his fists.
"For a Judge, you're pretty slow so I'll spell it out for you. Ask me what I want?"
Martin seemed to contemplate for a second before repeating his question.
"It's quite simple. You're releasing Marcus Williams in a few days on good behavior to have your daughter back. Of course, your daughter is only leverage under the table"
Martin scowled.After a few seconds he conceded.
"Look at you, a law-abiding man, succumbing to means outside of the law. Quite ironic"
"Get to your point!" Martin practically growled.
"I expect you to follow through with your promise. Lily's just a sweet, innocent, 4-year old. No need to harm her unnecessarily"
With that, Edward put the knife away and removed himself from the couch they were sitting on. He started to walk away when Martin shouted after him.
"You won't scare me!" Martin warned him.
Edward slowly looked over his shoulder at the old man. With a smirk, he responded, "But I already have"
Martin fell back into the couch, dumbfounded and frazzled. He was afraid. He was afraid for himself and for Lily. She was just a child and he got her mixed up in his world. Edward waltzed out of the club with his head held high.
Edward slid around his apartment like a zombie. He was baking brownies in the kitchen, running a bath for himself, eyeing the current stock market prices on his laptop and doing laundry. His current mood was unpredictable. He was usually like this most nights. The washing machine dinged loudly to signal it was done and needed attending first. In his zombie-like state he managed to walk to the laundry room and mechanically took the clothes out, dropping them into the dryer. Once he was done, he went to the kitchen and dropped in front of his laptop.
His current mission was complete for now: putting fear into Martin. It was necessary for the man to comply. Besides, no one would believe him if he tried to have Marcus held back. He would look stupid for making one decision and then another the next. Using his daughter as leverage was a brilliant suggestion on Marcus's part. As Edward praised his leader in his mind, the door to his bedroom creaked open. Out came Lily, the said 4-year old in captive.
She was dressed in pink pajamas, courtesy of one of the club whores that Edward knew loved kids. Her shoulder-length hair was messy and curling against the collar, a teddy bear in one hand dragging against the floor and she yawned. With tiny steps, she reached him and rubbed the sleep from her eye with tiny fists. Edward wasn't good with kids, in fact, he hated kids. But for this, he summoned his inner man and remained non-hostile. She was too young, too pure to understand or be blamed for anything. He gently picked her up and placed her on his lap.
"What's wrong Lily?" He cooed. The wall clock displayed 11 PM. She shouldn't be up.
Her little eyes peeked up at him. "Hungry"
Her small voice brought a smile to his face. He carefully stood up and set her on the couch against a group of cushions. His couch was big enough to swallow her but she laid against it with ease. He went to the kitchen and set some water on the stove to boil. Over the course of a month, he realized she enjoyed drinking warm milk. While waiting for the water to come to a full boil, he took her bottle down from the cabinet and put two scoops of Lasco in it. The oven dinged as well. His brownies were done. After shutting it off, the water was now warm enough and he poured it in Lily's bottle.
He found her half asleep still on the couch and crouched next to her. She took the milk from him and began slowly sipping and curled her free hand into his. Edward settled on the couch next to her and drew her to his chest. Deep inside him, this child was taming the storm he had suffered through for years. Years of rejection and pain melted away when she smiled at him. When she played with him. Even when she cuddled against him.
Maybe womanly comfort wasn't what he needed. Lily finished her milk and stretched the empty bottle in his face.
"When are we seeing Daddy?"
Her words weren't fully clear but he knew what she was saying. He had managed to bring her home from the daycare that day after charming the owner and explaining to little Lily that they were going on a play date. The poor child didn't question it. He managed to keep her calm for the past two weeks but eventually, she'd want to see her mother and father.
"Soon, sweetheart," he soothed her. "Daddy and Mommy will be coming soon. For now, Uncle Edward will be here"
Lily nodded. Her head hung off on his chest and her slow breaths indicated she was dozing off again. He calmly spread her back on the couch, setting the cushions around her as support. He eased over to the other side of the couch and sighed.
Everything would be coming together soon.