I punch the steering wheel and roll out a string of profanities that would make the Hells Angels blush.
I watched her call person after person, knowing that most people are either working or at Summerfest tonight. I was certain to be somewhere on the contact list. I did not even merit a last resort because she called Beraz. I tighten my fists on the steering wheel at the knowledge I drove her back to him.
Every day my life is a boring repeat of the day before: PT, work, barracks. When Maddy is around, none of the repetition matters. I’ll take any day, any situation, as long as she’s involved. I cannot get her out of my head. And I screwed up again.
I am an idiot.
I start the car. Before I put it in drive someone opens the passenger door and slides in. First instinct: Punch the bastard in his face and kick him out of the car. I draw my fist back and begin memorizing his face in case he gets away. When I focus on the beady eyes, I realize who is sitting beside me.
“Howyadoin, son?” Cordell smiles.
“Cordell,” I greet through clenched teeth.
“Didn’t your mama teach you it’s not nice to avoid phone calls, boy?” he laughs. He tilts his chin to Maddy’s vacated seat outside the café. “I see you two have become pretty good friends.”
What are the signs of a nervous breakdown? Are symptoms involved or does one just snap when they reach a breaking point?
“Cordell,” I say slowly, patiently. “I’ve had a shitty night. If you could just get down to whatever you are here for, that would be great.”
“That’s what I like about you, boy. You cut through the crap and get down to the bottom line.”
Just as he says this, a black Cadillac pulls into the parking space to my left, so closely that I would not be able to open my door if needed. Another pulls in on the right, but not too close. A third and fourth car pull in front and behind the Barracuda. Larry Duvall is in the car closest to Cordell. The bastard gives me a mock salute when I look at him.
“Maddy has . . .” Cordell pauses. “She has caused a lot of problems for me this past year and, frankly, she’s got to go.”
“What’s that got to do with me?” I try to stay calm. Every instinct screams at me to kill this man with my bare hands.
“You are going to be the one to do it,” he says matter-of-factly.
“It’s your life or hers, son. You choose. Either way, hers is ending.” He shifts in his seat and continues. “Once you commit to a deal with Cordell Carrington, you’re in until I decide you’re out. You will do this, son, and you will do it when, where, and how I tell you. I don’t make idle threats.”
Somewhere in the middle of pissed off and panic, my training to keep a straight face in the middle of stress kicks in while I pick which route to take.
“Didn’t you tell me the day we made our deal that if you have to kill someone you’ll do it yourself? What happened to that?” Sarcastic smartass route. “Or what about one of your flunkies? Better yet, you can get old Larry over there to beat the hell out of her and rape her again before he kills her—you know, for old time’s sake. Or maybe just as a little addition to your fucking show of who’s the biggest asshole.”
Cordell’s fist slams against my nose. I wipe the blood on my shirt but my gaze never leaves his face.
He furrows his brow in confusion as my words sink in. “Why did you say that? About Larry?”
I scan the parking lot and map the quickest escape route. Cordell is probably packing heat in his waistband but I don’t care at this point. My plan is to ram the car in front of me and peel out of here. If I can get far enough ahead of them, I should be able to crash into an empty building near one of the police stations. If I make a large enough scene, Cordell will be placed under a spotlight. This will give me time to warn Maddy.
While the wheels are turning in my head, I say, “Don’t play stupid. You know Larry abused her. You know what he did to her all those years, beginning at the ripe old age of ten and ending when she started to mature and he wasn’t turned on by her anymore. You fucking know he beat the hell out of her every chance he got. You were in the house during some of those beatings, so don’t to tell me you didn’t know.”
“He ra—” Cordell’s face turns ghost-pale, the tough act deflating from his body. He shakes his head and says almost inaudibly, “I didn’t know that.”
“Well you do now,” I say, gripping the steering wheel and readying myself to screech out of this parking lot before Flunky One and Flunky Two know what’s happening. Myrtle can outrun a Cadillac any day of the week.
Cordell lifts his head and glances at Larry Duvall, who waves and smirks. “She never said anything,” Cordell says. He doesn’t seem to be talking to me at all. “I loved Maddy once. I knew she would find out one day, but I never thought someone would send her . . . evidence.”
I want to tell him that his current wife sent Maddy those disks. Not that I care so much about CC since she is the one responsible for putting Maddy in this situation, but I know she wants to keep CC out of Cordell’s path of destruction. I keep my mouth shut. For now.
“I’ll be seeing your real soon, boy.” Cordell opens the car door.
Just for good asshole measure, I add, “He’s probably moved on to your real daughter now.”
I wait less than two minutes before leaving the parking lot. Dialing Maddy’s number, I say a quick prayer to whoever’s listening and make my way back to Fort Bragg.
Copyright © 2014 by Maria G. Cope
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.