March Madness Chapter Twenty

Copyright Amy L. Montz

CHAPTER TWENTY

            “But you don’t understand.” I tried to dig my heels into the floor to stop my forward momentum, but Bobby was determined to keep pushing.

            “I understand completely.” He nudged me some more and I slid across the newly waxed floor. Since when did police stations wax their floors? Didn’t they have more important things to do, like catch criminals or protect helpless women? “I understand that you’re insane and/or in trouble again, and therefore you need to go home where you’ll be safe.”

            “Funny, and I thought being at a police station would keep me safe.” As soon as we reached a door frame, I shot a hand out and gripped it. Score one to me. I stopped sliding. “Someone broke into my house!” A few heads turned at this, but as soon as they saw it was me, they returned back to work without so much as another glance.

            Bobby gave up trying to push and turned his attentions to my grip. “Come on, Sanderson,” he said in my ear. “You’re making a scene.”

            “I’m making a scene? Aren’t you the one shoving a woman out the front door?” I contemplated biting his hand, but knew better. With my luck, Bobby would have me arrested for assaulting an officer. “Okay, okay, stop. Let’s talk about this.”

He let go of my hand and walked around to face me. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

            I steadied my balance and met his eyes, gone a bit green with anger. “Walcheski, look. I’ve been a good girl, right? Played nice for two days now. I haven’t so much as made a peep. But I got back from mass this morning, and someone had broken into my house.”

            “Uh huh.” He leaned against the doorframe that had formally been my support. “What’d they take?”

            “That’s what I’m saying. They didn’t take anything.”

            He pulled away from the wall. “Then there’s nothing to talk about. Go home, Sanderson.”

            “Don’t you even want to know what was wrong with my house?”

            Bobby rolled his eyes, actually rolled his eyes before he leaned against the wall again. “What was wrong with your house?” His tone was soothing and mocking, all at once.

            I would not be coddled, nor mocked, nor looked at like I was on my way to Elysian Fields, first class with Dame Blanche. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t paranoid. “Someone left me clothes.”

            The shadow of a smile flitted over Bobby’s face. “What was that?”

            The look on his face made me want to reevaluate my convictions regarding my sanity. “Someone left me clothes,” I said a little louder. “Vintage clothes. Thirties’ stuff. Dresses, shirts, even a fur-lined…” my voice trailed off. “You really do think I’m nuts.”

            “No, I don’t think you’re crazy.” He leaned closer. “I do think you’ll use any excuse to see Dominic, but I don’t think you’re crazy.”

            That hurt worse, somehow. I scanned the station, saw the furtive glances, the placating smiles, and dammit, that’s what everyone else thought, too. March Sanderson had made up some insane story just to see her estranged… what, boyfriend? The detective on her case? The one who had broken off a relationship that had never really started? “Yeah, of course you’d think that. I just wanted to make sure Bourgeois hadn’t been released, but yes, you’re absolutely right. I came to see Dominic. Silly little me.” I pushed past him and headed to the door. “Thanks for your help, detective.

            “Any time,” Bobby called behind me. He didn’t even bother to defend himself, but he also didn’t shout out a warning. Bourgeois must be snug as a bug in a rug after all. Or maybe, just maybe, Bobby didn’t give a good goddamn about me, since I supposedly broke his best friend’s heart.

            As I stepped through the doors of the station, the cooler wind hit me across the face, thick and heavy with the promise of rain. I tilted my face back and closed my eyes, letting that promise of rain rush over me. It was close now. Any moment the skies would open up and I would be drenched from head to toe. Chicago had been bone dry since the night Bourgeois was arrested, and now, the smell of ozone in the air brought back too many memories: of that night, of Louisiana, and homesickness and fear warred inside of me until I didn’t know which was worse.

            “My muse,” a familiar voice said.

            And, a moment later, another familiar voice: “Hey, sweetheart.”

            Possibly fear was worse. I opened my eyes and saw Tommy “The Special” Spinelli and Evan the photographer standing about fifteen feet away. Evan was clutching a large manila envelope in his hands, while Tommy curved his mouth into a little smile as he scanned me from top to bottom, and then top again. “You wanna get some lunch?” When he winked, I resisted the urge to run far away. “My treat.”

            Somehow I managed to move my feet in the semblance of a walk. A fast walk, but a walk nonetheless. “Not supposed to talk to you, Tommy. You know that.” After I had revealed my theory of the coup d’etat in Big Tony’s Family, Jackson had simply shrugged, looked me in the eye, and told me to just keep far away from all of them. That was it. No agreement, no denials, just a simple reminder that they were, indeed, the Mafia. On some level, that was almost worse. Besides, Big Tony wasn’t taking my calls or returning them.

            “Yeah, I do, but you look like you was looking for something.” As I passed him, his hand shot out and stopped an inch from grabbing my arm. “Something I can give you?”

            That made me pause. God, I was such an idiot. Of course Bourgeois didn’t break out of jail and leave me clothes. If it had been body parts, maybe, but not clothes. “I’ve already eaten.”

            His smile curved wider. “Come on, sweetheart. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” The Special offered his arm to me. “Maybe we can talk some. I can help you find what you looking for.”

            “Don’t forget about me,” Evan said. He walked in front of us and held up the envelope. “I’ve got some prints to show you. Like a portfolio or whatever. So you can decide if you want to model for me or not.”

            Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub. And what a filthy tub it is. “I’m not modeling for you, honey. What are you, twenty? It would be indecent.”

            Evan’s face shadowed for a moment. “I’m twenty-one.” Even his voice was a little petulant. “And it’s not like that. I told you. Artsy stuff.”

            “Evan here’s a real good photographer, March,” Tommy said. “Real good. Does some decent work. You’d like it, sweetheart.”

            Something in his voice made me wonder, for one second, if there wasn’t more to this than I was suspecting. Tommy and Evan just happen to be waiting for me as I made a random visit to the police station? “So the clothes were from Tony.”

            Tommy gave me a little wink. “Course they was, sweetheart. They was from his mother’s estate. Said she was tall, like you.” He took my arm and put his hand over mine, protecting. “Ain’t nobody wanted them clothes no more. Boss and Miss Lotta said they was just sitting there, rotting away, but then Miss Lotta said to Boss that you was tall, like his mother, and that you was interested in all that old stuff.”

            Suddenly, my early June Mafia housecleaning made a lot more sense. This had the ring of a woman’s touch after all. “And how does Miss Lotta know all of this?”

            Tommy shrugged and guided me across the street. “She got her ways.”

            We chatted about nothing in particular as we walked to Marigold’s, but when Tommy opened the coffeehouse door for me, the world seemed off-kilter for one brief moment. This was familiar, somehow. Entirely too familiar. Tommy, opening a door for me, giving me that wolfish smile.

            But why? This must be what my twin went through, every time he had one of his “feelings.” I could predict everything that would happen a split second before it did. Tommy’s smile would grow wider as I accepted his chivalry. It did. He would tip his newsboy cap at me as I passed through the door. He did. But then, he followed me inside the coffeehouse, and the feeling was gone, leaving me a bit hollow, and more than a little confused.

            “You all right, sweetheart?” he asked. “You look pale.”

            “I’m fine,” I said in a low voice. When would Tommy have opened a door for me? This wasn’t prescience. This was a memory, buried deep in my brain. But from when?

            “What you want?” Tommy tapped on my arm. “Sweetheart? What you want?”

            I willed my feet to move, to unhinge themselves from the middle of the café floor and stride over to the counter. “Triple caramel latte,” I said to the barista.

            “That’s it?” Tommy asked. “No skim milk or nothing? No half-caf, light foam?”

            I shuddered and shook my head. “Just a plain old caramel latte, three shots of espresso.”

            “I just want a cup of coffee,” he said. “Regular old cup of coffee.”

            “I’ll have a mocha,” Evan said. “March, you want a cookie or something?”

            I tried to calm down. Whatever Tommy was up to, Evan wouldn’t be involved. I was sure of it. From everything I had gleaned from Dominic and Jackson, Evan wasn’t in the know about the Gasconi Family. But he was Tommy’s best friend, all the same.

            I watched the two of them banter at the counter while we waited for our drinks. This was a new side of Tommy, one I hadn’t ever thought to see. Around Evan, he looked almost… normal. A regular Joe just hanging out with his younger cousin. His attitude towards Evan was almost a little gentle. Condescending, sure, but gentle, all the same. While Evan seemed to worship the ground Tommy walked on. I could see why. If Tommy was this normal, this teasing, this fun around Evan, then he was the perfect older cousin. The perfect role model for a shy young man.

            “Muse,” Evan said, turning around to me. A little smile flicked over his face. “March. Muse. What do you prefer?”

            “March is fine, honey. I think Muse should be reserved for special occasions.” I willed myself closer to the two of them. “What’s up?”

            “They’ve got chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia, and chocolate decadence.” He pointed at each row of cookies as he named them. “What’s your poison?”

            “I bet March likes oatmeal,” Tommy said.

            “No way. I’m deathly allergic to oatmeal on principle.” I tapped the case at the “chocolate decadence” sign. “But one can never have enough chocolate.”

            “Give us six,” Tommy told the woman behind the counter. Then he leaned forward a bit, resting his chin on his hand. “That okay, babe?”

            The young blonde almost melted into a puddle at his feet. “Sure. Sure, of course. That’s just fine. There’s a discount, you know. For six cookies. Buy five, get one free. Do you want one free?”

            Tommy gave her a deliberate long look, scanning down her body, much as he had done when he had seen me outside of the police station. Bully for me, I seemed immune to those Turkish coffee colored eyes. When Evan caught my eyes and rolled his, both of our faces contorted as we tried to control our giggles. And I relaxed, just a bit more.

            The Special ignored us and leaned closer to the barista. “Molly,” he said, reading her nametag. “That’s such a pretty name. Molly. Make me think of apple pie or something.”

            “Is it always this bad?” I asked Evan. We both watched, in awe, as Molly the barista scribbled her phone number on a business card.

            “Worse,” Evan said, sotto voce. “He hasn’t asked for your phone number yet?”

            I didn’t think my Mafia bodyguards needed to ask for my number, considering they probably had as much information about me as the cops did, but I told Evan no, all the same.

            Drinks and cookies in hand, we grabbed a table on the covered back porch. As soon as we sat down, the first raindrops pattered on the tin roof. They chimed at first, like bells, and then the skies opened with true purpose and the chimes became a deafening roar. Tommy gestured towards the door but I shook my head. No smoking inside and if this was a setup of some kind, it seemed like I should have a cigarette–or burning missile–in hand.

I took out my cigarettes and put one to my mouth. Tommy leaned over with a lighter. As I again accepted his chivalry, I met his eyes. He was amused, damn him, entirely too amused. “So?” I asked as I exhaled. “I have coffee and cookies. What’s the ulterior motive?”

            “Ain’t nothing much, sweetheart.” He clicked the zippo shut and leaned back in his chair. “It’s just Evan here’s been talking ‘bout some redhead he met, back at the restaurant. Said she was real unusual looking.”

            Evan had the good grace to flush at this comment and my pointed look. “It’s not like that,” he said. “Tommy’s good at finding models for me.”

            I bet Tommy was. “How is it possible that I’m the only ‘unusual looking’ redhead in Chicago?”

            “Yeah, but ain’t many of them like spinach on their pizzas.” Tommy gestured the zippo at his cousin. “We got to comparing, is all. Two plus two equals four, huh, March?”

            Or sometimes, it felt like they equaled five. Tommy knew I was Evan’s unusual redhead because he had been following me since day one. But Evan wasn’t to know that, was he? “What’s going on?” I asked in a quiet voice.

            “See, okay, here’s the thing. I’m doing this project right now, on partial color?” Evan opened the envelope and poured out the contents on the table. “And your hair would be perfect for it. I found this woman, with these odd grey eyes.” He handed me one of the prints. “Look at how the eye color just pops out. I got an A on this. My prof told me to keep running with it.”

            The photograph was gorgeous. There was no other way to put it. Evan was an incredibly talented young man. The model in the photograph looked caught off-guard, as if she didn’t even know the camera was there. “It’s lovely,” I said, with all sincerity.

            He flipped his black hair out of his eyes. A second later, his bangs just flopped down again. “I’ve got the whole series here, so you know I’m not playing with you. It’s kind of a street theme, you know? Like, grab random people on the street. Real people. People with flaws.” At my look, he flushed again. “Not that you have flaws–”

            “Oh, I have flaws. Plenty of them.” My ass. My hips. My height, my oddly shaped eyes, my slightly crooked bottom lip.

            Tommy, ever the gallant, said, “Ain’t no flaws that I see, sweetheart.”

            I just rolled my eyes and looked at the next print Evan handed me. In this one, two blonde twins were walking arm in arm down what looked to be Wabash. They were looking at each other, both caught in mid-laugh. Everything was black and white except for their butter-yellow hair.

            “See, sweetheart? He real good.”

            Even I was surprised at the pride in Tommy’s voice. But there was something else there, something just under the surface, that tainted the pride just a little. Jealousy. Big bad Tommy “The Special” Spinelli was jealous of his talented young cousin. Not that I blamed him. Evan’s gift was unique. A true artist. They were almost rare in this day and age. But I agreed with Tommy’s statement.

            “Show her the one that I like,” Tommy said. “The one of that guy.”

            Evan flicked his hair again as he shuffled through his prints. “I got this guy yesterday on Berwyn. Tommy pointed him out.” He looked up at his cousin with a little smile. “Tommy would be a hell of a photographer if he wanted to be. He’s got an eye for faces.”

“I can always get me a face out of a crowd,” Tommy agreed. “Ain’t no talent. Just a thing.” He leaned forward and snatched a print out of the stack. “But this guy, March? He’s really something. Something almost familiar ‘bout him. I told Evan that he was familiar looking. Didn’t I, Evan?”

“You sure did,” Evan said in a distracted voice as he tried to get the print out of Tommy’s hand. Tommy, being Tommy, held it out of Evan’s reach for a minute before he handed it back.

I think I knew. Some part of me knew the reason Tommy had brought me to coffee, had engineered this sit down with Evan so that I could see what he wanted me to see. Tommy had the upper hand on something, and he was playing me, playing Evan, playing all of us so that he was in control. But in control of what? “Can I see the print?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure. Of course.” Evan handed it to me and gestured his finger at the man on the left. “Look at that one. The hair’s a really odd color, huh? That’s what Tommy noticed, he said. The hair, and the eyes. Said the eyes were familiar.”

I didn’t look at the print first. First, I looked at Evan, then Tommy. Evan was staring at me with the strangest expression on his face. When he met my eyes, his widened, and recognition flashed in them. “Shit,” he said in a soft voice.

I ignored him for now and turned to Tommy. Tommy was leaned back in his chair, a cat with cream contented smile on his face. “Something familiar about that guy, huh, March?”

And as quickly as it had began, the rain stopped. The silence was almost symbolic, but of what, I couldn’t be sure. I willed myself to look at the print, even though I knew exactly what I would see. “You son of a bitch,” I said in a soft voice, but whether to Tommy or to the men in the photograph, I wasn’t sure. “You goddamn bastards.”

            Tommy’s voice was a little taunting now, but not mean. More like the voice of a child who had been told for years he wasn’t good enough, or smart enough, and he had just gotten the highest score on the test. Tommy had scored, and scored big. He had gotten the piece of the puzzle that had eluded me, and who knows who else. “Don’t you think, sweetheart?” Tommy asked. “Don’t that guy on the left look like he got some odd colored hair?”

            “So red it looks black,” I whispered as I stared at the photograph. “You can only see the red in the sunshine.” But the man next to him, only in profile, was familiar, too. That dark curly hair, the plain sports watch on his left wrist, even the familiar bulge of a gun under his shirt. Dominic.

“And don’t he got some familiar eyes?” Tommy said again in that same taunting voice.

            Of course he did. And up from the print my twin’s eyes caught mine, matching orbs of Sanderson blue. The only color in the photograph besides his odd red hair.

#

            “Goddammit, Reggianno, open the door!” I pounded on the object in question for a third time. His Blazer wasn’t in the driveway, but that didn’t really mean anything. He had to be home. This was one time I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

            “You think he gonna answer?” Tommy called from the sidewalk.

            I had run from the coffeehouse mere seconds after I had seen the print, but I hadn’t been able to prevent Tommy and Evan from following me to Dominic’s house. They trailed after me, the whole twenty-five minute walk from Marigold’s to Dominic’s, like little ducks following Momma. And Momma was in a rage.

            “I think you need to shut your mouth, Special,” I said without turning around. Who cared if Evan didn’t know Tommy’s made name? It would serve Tommy right if I dashed all of Evan’s beliefs about his cousin. He had stung me to the quick, and for what, revenge? The upper hand? Another nefarious reason I had yet to discover?

            “I ain’t saying he ain’t gonna answer you,” Tommy said. “I’m just saying that he probably ain’t home.”

            But why? Why wouldn’t he be home? He hadn’t been at the station, had he? Where else could he be?

            I gave one last, hard pound on Dominic’s door, and then turned away, my shoulders slumped in defeat. When I reached Tommy, I no longer cared that Evan was watching, no longer cared whether or not Tommy was carrying. I cared about one thing and one thing only.

            Evan’s gasp was harsh and quick, but nearly inaudible under the sound of my palm connecting with Tommy’s cheek. “You son of a bitch,” I said between clenched teeth. “I trusted you. I stood up for you. I lied for you, and this is how you repay me?”

            Whatever reaction I had been expecting, it wasn’t the one I got. Tommy, for one long still second in time, actually looked hurt. Not by the sting of my palm, which probably hurt me more than it hurt him, but by the force of my words. “It ain’t like that, sweetheart,” he said in a soft voice.

            “Oh, it isn’t? You goddamn bastard.” I took a step towards Tommy, and was a little pleased when he took a step back. “You set me up. You used Evan,” I stabbed a finger in Evan’s general direction, “to get me to talk to you. And for what? To gloat over me? To dangle the fact that you knew my twin was in town before I did? Well, guess what.” Another step forward and back. We were dancing, it seemed, to a mad girl’s love song. “It’s over. It’s done. Everyone told me not to trust you. That you were a thug, an idiot, one step above Neanderthal, and I kept defending you. No more. You don’t play me, Special. Not after what I’ve done for you.”

            There it was again. That hurt puppy dog look. “March,” he began, but Evan cut him off this time.

            “Sorry, Tommy, I’ve got to agree with her.”

            “Shut the fuck up, Evan,” Tommy said in a casual voice. He grabbed my arm and dragged me a good twenty or thirty feet away from his cousin. I resisted, of course, but Tommy’s fingers were hard and bruising. But when Evan stepped forward to intervene, Tommy shot him a look that froze him to the sidewalk.

            “I’m pressing charges,” I said in a hiss.

            “Go ahead, sweetheart. Press them charges. See what the cops say ‘bout you spending time with an ex-con.” His voice was at the same level as mine–low, mean, and almost growling. Gone was the hurt dog look. In its stead was a look that could curdle blood, freeze innards, shoot laser beams from eyeballs. I wasn’t sure what the magical phrase had been to piss Tommy off, but I had said it, all the same. “You think I’m scary?” he whispered in my ear. “I can be scary, sweetheart. Oh, I can scare you real good.”

            “Really well, you Jackass.” I managed to untangle my arm from his grip. “How dare you do this to me?”

            “You wanna know how I dare?” Tommy turned my chin, almost gently, towards the left. “Look, sweetheart. Look. You got a tail. You been having a tail for days now. I ain’t supposed to be talking to you none. I thought if Evan came, then I be able to play it off.”

            I didn’t see it at first, didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. And then, I realized that the cable truck parked half a block down was familiar. I had seen it before, hadn’t I? Yesterday, when I went running, it was parked a block down from my building. Today, as I went to the police station, it was parked close by as well. Hell, I even had a vague recollection of it outside of Marigold’s as I ran out. “Then why didn’t you just tell me?” All the fight just slipped out of me and I felt deflated, tired, and more than a little confused.

            “Because I didn’t know if you was bugged or something. Christ, March, ain’t I been good to you? Ain’t I helped you out? Tit for tat, huh? You do me a solid, I do you one. Ain’t that supposed to be how it works?” He turned my chin back towards him so that we met eyes. “You took a bullet for Boss,” he said in a quiet voice. “No matter that you didn’t know who he was. Maybe it was better that way, somehow. You was just a girl, getting a cup of coffee. You see some guy and you try to save him. That guy is Boss. Boss is alive and you got a big scar on your shoulder, huh? Don’t that mean something? Don’t you think I gonna help you because of that? Don’t you get it yet?”

            I glanced down at Evan to find him staring at us as he smoked a cigarette. He was far enough away not to hear anything. I was sure of it. “You know, don’t you?” I turned back to Tommy. “You’re not protecting me from other Families. You’re protecting me from yours.”

            So many emotions warred on Tommy’s face that I wasn’t sure he would ever decide on one. When he did, it surprised me. It was deep, emotional, mature regret. “I should be with Boss. I should be protecting him. But he says that you is more important than him, so Bit is watching him and I’m watching you.” But he wasn’t accusing me. He wasn’t angry that I took precedent over Tony, in Tony’s mind. He just seemed… sad that the choice had to be made in the first place.

            “I’m sorry, Tommy.” My words surprised even me. I hadn’t intended to apologize, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was apologizing for.

            “Yeah, sweetheart. I’m sorry, too.” He glanced at the cable truck again before he turned back to me. “Your brother is in town to pick up your ex-husband. He been staying with the cop. I couldn’t call you and tell you. Your phone is tapped. Least, that what Boss says.”

            “That’s why he hasn’t been taking my phone calls.” Hell, even if my cell phone wasn’t tapped, it would be too easy to listen in to the chatter. Cell phones were just as suspect as land lines.

            When I started putting all the pieces together, I realized that Tommy’s plan had actually been a really good one. Dominic knew that Evan wanted to photograph me, and if anyone mentioned me meeting with Tommy and Evan, looking at pictures, it may just fly. Tommy hadn’t been mocking me. He had been trying to warn me, inform me, whichever word worked better when I figured out why Remy didn’t want me to know he was in town.

            A little smile flitted over Tommy’s face as his thumb reached up to brush a tear away from my cheek. “I ain’t ever gonna hurt you none, sweetheart. I swear on Boss’s head that I ain’t. You got that?”

            A month in Chicago. A month in a new city, and what did I have to show for it? A relationship that died before it ever really lived, a stalker, a shooting, a kidnapping, and two strange male friends. One was a Fed. The other was a mobster. I didn’t know which was worse.

            But in the end, I just gave Tommy’s hand a brief squeeze. “Think they’re at the station?”

            “Oh yeah,” Tommy said. “Yeah, I think they is.”

            This was going to require more subterfuge than either of us had. We needed the big guns, and if my hunch was correct, I could access those big guns much faster if I made a quick trip down the block. But I tried Jackson’s cell, just in case. It went straight to voicemail. Plan B it was. “Give me one minute,” I told Tommy, before I half-jogged down the street.

            When I arrived at the cable truck, there was a sense of a flutter of activity, just finished. Almost like the casual scene of a young man scribbling on a clipboard was staged, and recently so. It didn’t matter. I tapped on the window anyways.

            The young man jumped a bit, as if startled, but that, too, seemed staged. When he rolled down the window, I saw the slightest lines of panic around his eyes. “Ma’am?” he asked.

            “Hi, yeah, listen. I need you to get in touch with Jackson for me.”

            There was emotion on his face for one split second before it smoothed out. He really did work with Jackson, only he was younger, not as well trained. He had let me see emotion. “Ma’am?” he asked again.

            I waved my hand in dismissal. “Logan Jackson. Tell him it’s an emergency.”

            The boy stared at me with blank green-grey eyes. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I don’t know any–”

            “Course you do, honey. You’re my government tail. But I need Jackson to get in touch with me ASAP.”

            His fingers twitched against the clipboard. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

            “Sure. Right. Of course.” I tapped the van door and turned to walk away. “Imperative that he calls me. Can you get that message to him?”

            Ten minutes later, Jackson pulled up outside of Dominic’s house.

            Tommy, Evan, and I were sitting on the curb. Evan and I were smoking cigarettes, while Tommy was chewing on a toothpick. The cable truck drove off the second Jackson stepped out of his jeep. His face wasn’t blank this time. No, he was amused, damn him. Highly amused.

            “I should have known,” he said before he reached out a hand to help me up.

            “Actually, it was Tommy, not me.” I took the hand he offered. Once I was in a standing position, I wiped off the seat of my skirt. “Is Remy really in town?”

            “That’s the rumor,” he agreed. Jackson glanced over at Tommy. “Thought we had an agreement, Special.”

            “Yeah, sure. Agreement.” Tommy darted a quick glance at Evan. “I ain’t moving in on your territory, man. Like you said. I ain’t doing nothing with the redhead.”

            “As long as we understand each other.” Jackson paused for a moment before he offered his hand to Evan. “Jackson.”

            “Evan.” The boy shook Jackson’s hand, a little hesitant, a little unsure. He knew something was up, but he couldn’t pull it all together.

            Not that I blamed him. I still didn’t know what was going on. Not really. “Tommy? Evan? I’ll see y’all later?”

            “Yeah, see you,” Tommy said. “Come on, Evan. Let’s get something to eat.”

            “Sure. Bye, March.” With one last confused look, Evan trailed after his cousin.

            Once they were gone, Jackson cocked his head towards his jeep. “Want a ride?”

            “I want answers, but you can give me those on the way.” I climbed into the jeep and waited until Jackson was settled before I pounced. “What the hell is Remy doing here?”

            “He came to take your ex home, as far as I know.” At my look, Jackson shrugged. “I’m not really in on this, love. This is Reggianno’s deal, not mine. I’ve got more important things to think about than irate southern cops.”

            Irate indeed. There was something going on, and ten to one Jackson knew exactly what it was. “You know something.” My voice was damn near accusing.

            “I know lots of things. Which something are you referring to?”

            “Jackson.

            He sighed and ran a hand over his head. “March, give me the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been running my ass off all over town trying to keep the bad guys from attacking you. I really haven’t had time to figure out why your brother hasn’t called you.”

            “But you know he hasn’t called me.”

            “Course I do, love.”

            “Goddammit, you do have my phones tapped!”
            His mouth curved into that familiar half-smile. “Tapped is such an ugly word.” He downshifted as we came towards a red light.

            So my phones were tapped, Jackson knew Jeremy was in town, but he didn’t know why he hadn’t called me. Evan had taken a picture of Remy and Dominic walking together yesterday. Just arrived in town, perhaps? Or was there something else going on, something deeper and darker? “He’s at the police station?” I asked.

            “Maybe,” he agreed. “Let’s find out.”

            Something slithered around in my brain, something very important indeed. Bobby wouldn’t let me into the station. Dominic was avoiding me. Big Tony wasn’t taking my calls. And Jackson had a tail on me. Tommy wanted me to know that my brother was in town, but my brother didn’t?

            “Seems strange, though,” Jackson said, cutting through my reverie.

            “What seems strange?” But he was right. The whole thing seemed very odd, indeed.

            “That Baton Rouge PD would send your twin.” He looked over at me. “Doesn’t seem like the right person to come and pick up your ex, does it?”

            No, it didn’t. In fact, Remy would be the last person they would send to pick up David. They knew better. Goddammit, they knew better. But why didn’t I know better? What did everyone else know that I didn’t? Remy comes to town, contacts Dominic but not me, and he’s here to pick up David?

            I pulled my cell phone out of my purse and was just about to call Jason, or Joey, or Jordan, when Jackson spoke again.

            “It just seems like if anyone would hate your ex, it would be Jeremy, wouldn’t it?”

            I stared at the cell phone in my hand, fascinated, as it started trembling. It took me a second to realize the phone wasn’t vibrating of its own accord. My hand was shaking. “You know,” I said in a soft voice.

            “I told you, I research all of my cases.”

            I shook my head. “Not this. There’s no way you would have known this.” I willed my eyes away from my phone and to Jackson.

            His face was blank, as always, carefully schooled into something inhuman, without emotion. “I heard your stalker’s surveillance tapes. The question is, how does Jeremy know?”

            Jackson pushed the number of people in the know about my marital abuse up to six: David, Ava, Jackson, Brian Bourgeois, me, and Dominic. Seven, if I counted my twin. I knew David didn’t say anything, or Ava. I was pretty sure Jackson wasn’t lying when he said he kept his mouth shut, and since I knew I didn’t tell Remy, that left only one person.

            We were quiet the rest of the trip, but when we pulled up at the station, Jackson had just stopped the car when I ran out. I sprinted into the building, past a confused Markus at the desk, and continued forward, looking for something, anything, that would clue me in.

            When hands grabbed me, I didn’t struggle. I knew, on some instinctive level, that it was Bobby. “Calm down, Sanderson,” he said in my ear.

            I did. I calmed down, and Bobby let me go. “Where is he?” I asked.

            “Sanderson…”

            “Where. Is. He?” I asked again, each word separate and punctuated.

            Bobby just sighed, took my arm, and half dragged me through the station. I knew where we were going. Knew exactly where Remy was. But still, I was surprised at the company he was keeping.

            Remy and Dominic both looked up at me when I approached the bars, Dominic on the outside and Remy on the inside. Dominic immediately dropped his gaze, but Remy stood up. He wobbled a bit before he limped over. God, his face. A black eye, a swelling jaw, a cut on his cheek that was so similar to the eyelash scar on mine that I almost doubled over and threw up.

            But there was one person missing. The cause for all of this.

            “Did you kill him?” I asked Remy in a soft voice.

            He gripped a bar in each hand and squeezed them tight. Then he leaned forward so that his forehead was pressed against the bars. “You never fucking told me,” he said in the same soft voice. “I’m your goddamn twin, and you never told me.”

            I bit my bottom lip so hard I tasted blood, metal and salt flooding my mouth until I almost couldn’t breathe. “Dominic told you?”

            “He was drunk,” Bobby said behind me. “We all were.”

            I knew why David wasn’t there. He was, for once, the victim. They must have shipped him back to Baton Rouge under the care of Chicago PD. Baton Rouge PD had proved untrustworthy after all. “Did you kill him?” I asked again.

            “He tried,” Dominic said, finally looking up at me. “But we found him in time.”

            Remy just shook his head, slowly, deliberately, his eyes never leaving mine. “David’s not dead, Nat. Not yet. But he will be. I don’t brook wife-abusers.”

            And that did it. That one simple acknowledgement of Dominic’s betrayal. Biting my lip to keep them from seeing me cry, I turned on my heel, and walked out.

One thought on “March Madness Chapter Twenty”

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