On the counter in the kitchen, Tommy’s phone rang, lighting up a like a five-alarm fire.
“Answer the phone, Tommy,” Marcus said. “Because if you don’t, they’ll start to think the worst outside, and that’s when people start getting hurt.”
Reine gestured to Eva to come over to her and held out her hand. When she did, she held her in front of her, her hands over her shoulders, and took a step away from both men. “Tommy, answer the phone, or let me answer,” she said. “He’s right. This has to stop before someone comes in here firing. My daughter is the one who’s going to get hurt.”
Tommy just stood there, staring at the phone.
Finally, Reine left Eva by the door and hurried to the cell phone, reaching for it. “Hello?” she said. He could see her wariness had taken a turn to a point that he hoped would have her walking out of there with her daughter. “Yes, he’s right here… Reine Colbert.”
It was a one-sided conversation.
“Reine, put it on speaker,” Marcus called to her.
Tommy just stood there, then reached for two bowls before he turned off the stove and poured out the soup.
Reine pulled the cell phone from her ear and pressed the speaker button. “I’ve put you on speaker now.”
“Where is Deputy O’Connell right now?” said Lonnie. That dumbass… Marcus would need to pull him aside and have a sit-down with him after he was out of there.
“I’m right here, Lonnie. Who’s out there with you?” he called out.
Tommy glanced up and over to him, his hazel eyes unsmiling. There was something else in them that Marcus couldn’t put his finger on.
“I’m here, Marcus,” said Ryan. “Is anyone hurt in there?”
He didn’t miss how worried his brother sounded. At the same time, knew he’d likely have a few things to say to him once this was done.
“Everyone’s fine,” he said. “My gun is outside. I’m cuffed to a chair right now in the living room. Eva is by the front door, and Reine is here with me now. So is Tommy. Look, Lonnie, I never told you to go into the house. I asked you to watch the back. Doing what you did could have killed someone, and now we’re back at square one. What the hell were you thinking?”
There was silence for a second.
“Seriously, Marcus, you’re lecturing me? I saw the woman and the window. There was an opportunity. If she hadn’t screamed… You know she’s aiding and abetting.”
He shook his head. Reine’s jaw slackened at the spin Lonnie was putting on this. She could be looking at hard time, whether or not this was justified.
“No, Lonnie, it’s not as you think,” Marcus said. “She thought you were going to hurt her and her daughter. Keep a cool head, would you? No more going off half-cocked, you hear me? Ryan, you make sure he stays put.”
“Look, the sheriff and deputy from Sweet Grass County just pulled in out here,” Ryan said. “Charlotte called them in for backup. What do you want me to tell him?”
All he could think was that he was glad his brother was out there. He knew Frank, the Sweet Grass County sheriff, could use a heavy hand when a lighter touch was needed. He was by the book, still operating in a mindset from thirty years ago.
“Just get everyone to cool their heels and not do anything stupid like charge the door or come in shooting,” Marcus said. He thought he heard his brother swear under his breath.
“Hey, listen,” Ryan said. “Tulli spoke with Thomas Marshall, Senior. We have his number. Apparently, they haven’t talked with Tommy in years. He’s on his way out here. Tommy, if you’re listening, your dad said he’s going to do everything he can to help you.”
Tommy lifted his gaze to the phone Reine was holding. Everyone was staring at it as if it held all the answers. Marcus didn’t miss the confusion on Tommy’s face as he strode over and ripped it from her hands, then threw it at the wall, where it shattered. Reine screamed, and a piece of the plastic hit Marcus in the cheek. Reine had Eva in her arms again.
“Tommy, you need to stop this!” she screamed. “You’re scaring us! Why would you do that? Your father wants to help you…” She was looking to the door.
“The only person that man wants to help is himself,” Tommy said, jamming his hands in his hair and pacing. “That is absolute bullshit.”
Marcus didn’t miss the fact that the gun was still on the counter. “Why would you say that, Tommy?” he said. “Look, that was my brother on the phone, and he wouldn’t lie about something like that. Whatever differences you have with your father, they are just that. When push comes to shove and your back is to the wall, families tend to put aside their differences, you know, and step in to help out.”
Tommy was shaking his head. “Not my family, not my old man. The only thing he ever concerned himself with was making more money, even though he had more than enough. Then there were the women, the booze. Everyone said we were the picture-perfect family… If they only knew. It makes no sense that he would come. The only reason would be because of this shithole cabin that he never uses. He only cares about things.”
Reine was staring at Tommy, holding her daughter. Then she dragged her gaze over to him. He needed her out of there now.
“Listen, you have me here now,” Marcus said. “Let’s wait for your dad to come, and we’ll talk. You’ll see. Sometimes people change. I mean, how many years has it been since you’ve seen him? A lot could’ve happened, you know. Look at you. I bet you’re not the same person you were five years ago, or ten.” He was doing everything he could think of, feeling the bite of the cuffs and the cramping in his shoulders.
“Reine, you should go eat the soup I heated,” Tommy said. “Eva, go eat.”
“You know what? How about you let them go?” Marcus said. “My brother out there will see to it that Eva and Reine get something to eat. Reine, take Eva out of here.”
She nodded. Maybe he was getting through to Tommy, who, it seemed, was struggling with his own demons. As she put her hand on the door, she glanced back, maybe to see if anyone would stop them.
Marcus held his breath, waiting for Tommy to do something. Then he gestured toward the door with his chin. “Open it, Reine, but stay back until I tell you it’s okay.”
She pulled the door open, her arm around her daughter, and stepped back.
“Ryan, this is Marcus,” he called out. “Reine and Eva are coming out. Make sure no one does anything stupid. They’re hungry. Get them some food, blankets.”
Tommy dragged his gaze over to Reine and the door.
“Send her out,” called Lonnie from outside, and Marcus gestured for them to go.
“Reine, hands up in the air as you walk out. Eva, keep walking. My brother is out there. You’ll both be safe,” he said, then watched as mother and daughter walked out. He heard shouts.
“Get your hands up! Keep them where we can see them!”
Reine screamed, he thought, and he saw a man in a uniform run and grab her, pinning her down on the ground. At least she was out of there.
Tommy kicked the door closed before he could see more, and then he stood there, looking up at the shiplap ceiling, the same as the walls. He turned to Marcus. “So now it’s just you and me, cop. What do you want to talk about? You want to hear about how my father would use his fists when I didn’t live up to his expectations, or the fact that we lived in a nice house and had a nice car and any material thing we could want, or the fact that my dad had a mean streak and the only things he loved were his company, his bank account, and his business partners?”
He was seeing a different side of Tommy now, and he knew the man wouldn’t need much more pushing before he went over the edge.