Broken Daisies

by Bebop3

Copyright© 2019 by Bebop3

Drama Story: An extended family deals with grief and a little boy faces his pain and loss.

Tags: Fiction   Crime   Tear Jerker  

This story takes place immediately following A Death in Montauk, but both stories are complete in and of themselves. In the previous story, Marisol, a non-blood relative of the Corrigans, is abducted from college and is abused. She commits suicide after being rescued. William Corrigan loved her with all the intensity an eleven-year-old boy can bring to bear and was devastated by her loss. He is now suffering from depression and anger issues.

Siobhan is an Irish name pronounced Shivahn. Her friends and loved ones call her Shiv. Her niece, nephew, and husband call her Daisy.


JIM

What was I, invisible? Yeah, the sun was setting, but seriously, I was at most 20 feet away when they approached Finn and William. They didn’t see me? Other than us, the beach was empty. My boss and his son were wearing wetsuits and carrying their boards and the four punks were dressed like, well, like punks.

One of them spoke up. “Hey, this your Hummer, man? You know, it’s not like 2001, right?”

The Hummer was sitting on the grass bordering on the sand of the private beach. The waves slapping against the shore provided a good evening of boogie-boarding for the Corrigans.

A second punk spoke up. “There’s a parking fee here, dude.”

Finn carefully slid in front of William. “Yeah? How much?”

“How much have you got?”

“William, go get in the car.”

William sounded exasperated. “It’s a Hummer, Dad, not a car. Don’t give these guys any money. They’re not going to do anything.”

“William, get in the damn Hummer!”

Aside from Tommy, William had been the most affected by the loss of Marisol. He’d become withdrawn, truculent and argumentative. Cynthia adored her big brother and he’d been being needlessly cruel to her. He’d taken to spending hours at the pier, staring at the water, only allowing Dink to be by his side.

I knew that for Jennifer, it was a terrifying echo of how Finn behaved after his neck was broken and he sat in his wheelchair staring at the water for hour after hour. His depression, frustration, and anger had lasted for years as he slowly recovered.

Finn was doing everything in his power to draw his son out, including ventures such as this.

Brushing the sand off my hands, I walked over, passed the four jackasses, and stood next to Finn as William sullenly got in the vehicle. “Hey, how you guys doing? I’m Jim DeCossa. You mind if I interrupt your poorly thought out shakedown scheme?”

They seemed surprised someone else was there and didn’t speak up. “So, you ever thought about a guy who’s out fishing for, I don’t know, carp or something and instead, he gets a shark on his line? How that little fishing venture turns into a nightmare? Guys, you’ve hooked a killer whale.”

One of them was looking at me as if trying to figure something out. Should I have known him?

“Anyway, what you should be looking for is some upper-middle-class businessman type. That’s not what you got. You see, my boss here is a billionaire. That means that he can afford to have people like me on his payroll. I’m head of his security. But even if I wasn’t here, knowing he’s a billionaire, how do you think this would go down? Think about it. If he thought you were threatening his son and got pissed, he could easily give you whatever you wanted to go away and then put a bounty of half a million on each of your heads and it wouldn’t change his life in the least. You guys are way, way out of your depth.”

The one who had looked at me oddly spoke up. “Hey, now I know who you are. You’re that faggot that was banging Charlie Reader’s brother. What’re you gonna do, faggot? Suck our dicks to death?”

Alan Reader. He was a good guy. I still saw him on occasion. “Faggot? Now who’s out of 2001?” I’ve ignored taunts by a better class of idiots. He wasn’t going to rile me. “More importantly, this guy’s sister? She’s a stone-cold killer. I’m not exaggerating. She frightens me sometimes. She loves her brother to death and I swear, I’ve never seen a woman love a little boy like she loves her nephew. Shiv would walk through hell to find you where you’re sleeping, and you’d never wake up again. Okay, so that pretty much wraps this up except to tell you that this is a no-leash beach.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

There was a deep, rumbling, frightening growl to their rear.

“That means that the huge dog standing behind you is probably pretty pissed that you’re menacing his oldest and best friend. I’ve seen some shit, guys, and trust me, I’ve never seen anything like this dog when he’s angry.”


JENNIFER

Sitting in the sterile waiting room, I flipped through at least three magazines while waiting for Siobhan. This was her first appointment with the therapist, and she was beyond nervous. Finn and Jim and even Tommy before he left spoke of how Shiv had this weird need to be some sort of hero and protector after George died. It’s always been my belief that it started way before his death.

The first time I had met Siobhan she was helping me at Finn’s behest. I could see then how protective she was of him. The next time we met was at his house. I made an off the cuff remark about how odd it was that someone as young as Finn could afford a home like the one he had. She laid into me, telling me how hard and how long he had worked for the money and how much of what I saw was the result of his own handiwork.

She was always incredibly protective. Siobhan wanted to be a police officer like her grandfather and uncle since she was a little girl. I think that the death of her mentor pushed things over the edge and turned a trait into a mania and obsession. At least now she was getting some help.

Weeks went by and Tommy was still gone. Sometimes she would drive to therapy on her own, sometimes Pete would take her and once in awhile, in spite of my horrible driving, I was dragooned.

As she did many days, Siobhan spent the afternoon with her niece. Cynthia kept chattering away at Siobhan as I placed the cinnamon buns into the oven. Finn and William should be back soon, and I had a meatloaf in the oven. “Alexa, what time is it?”

The mechanical female voice told me it was 5:20 PM. Grabbing the carrots and peeler, I listened to Cynthia chatter as I cooked. Dink and Buttercup lay on the kitchen floor as the home became redolent with the aroma of meatloaf and pearl onions. Cynthia had drawn closer and closer to Shiv as my sister-in-law fell deeper into herself.

My daughter seemed to concentrate on her coloring as she spoke. “So, this boy had like every Pokemon card in the universe, right, Mom? They were in like a book with plastic and there were just pages of them. He even had some from Japan. It was really cool. Mom got me half a box of cards and there’s a rare in every pack. You can have some if you want. The whole store had comic books and cards and stuff. You can come the next time if you want.”

I turned from the stove to see Cynthia trying to engage and cheer up her aunt. Pokemon might not be the way to an adult’s heart, but unadulterated love was. Siobhan was leaning close to Cynthia, offering a wan smile whenever her niece looked up from her coloring. With Tommy gone, it’s as if she took solace from my children.

Marisol was Tommy’s cousin, but he thought of her as a little sister. If Siobhan was most everything to him, Marisol was pretty much everything left over. His relationship with her is part of what made Siobhan realize what a great father he would be. My family is filled with love, but there have been some deep, disturbing patterns of darkness in our lives. Tommy was the antidote for that.

He was the friendliest, most guilelessly people person I’ve ever known. He met Shiv at his father’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym or studio or school or whatever it’s called when they were teens and they’ve been by each other’s sides since then. When we found out that Marisol had been abducted and forced into performing on camera for the drugs they used to make her become an addict, he was devastated.

When she committed suicide less than a week after being rescued, he was broken.

When he found out that the love of his life had put herself at extreme risk to kill everyone involved in what happened to Marisol, he never returned from Marisol’s funeral in Brazil.

I was standing in my kitchen trying to figure out how to fix my sister-in-law, the woman who had always stood between my children and harm. She was spiraling out of control and I didn’t know what to do.

Alexa’s voice pulled me from my reverie. “This is a reminder. Mommy, buy Pokemon cards.”

That almost made me smile as I looked at my daughter who tried not to giggle as she continued coloring. I didn’t know who taught her how to use Alexa to set reminders, but at that moment I didn’t care.

JIM

Dink sat in the back with William, his head out the window and drool whipping along the side of the Hummer as we drove to their home after another day at the beach. Sitting in the front while Finn drove, we tried to make light of the situation we ran into weeks earlier. They were slacker idiots who’d think twice before trying something like that again. One of them actually soiled himself.

I could smell their dinner as we got out of the vehicle and realized I had skipped lunch. As they went inside, I went to the guardhouse at the head of the driveway. I grabbed a bottle of water and some leftovers from the fridge and ate it cold while going over security reports. One of the benefits of working for the Corrigans was that Finn was an amazing cook who always made too much and shared the largesse with his employees.

90 minutes later, Pete pulled into the driveway. He was a harmless but slightly odd guy. A member of the family by tradition instead of blood, Pete had been almost like a much older brother to Finn and an uncle to Cynthia and William. He’d walk through fire for those kids and he had my respect.

“Hey, Pete. You going to the Vannarows with William?”

“Yeah. He sorta needs to get out of his head, you know.”

“Sure. Listen, something happened recently and I’m going to tag along for the ride, okay?”

A wiry black man, Pete had that weird thing happening where his close-cropped hair was grey near his ears and around his head but completely black above that line. No mixing, either black or grey. Looking at me intently, he spoke slowly. “Everything okay?”

“Sure. Just some punks. It was likely nothing, but with everything going on lately I want to make sure that no one was whispering in their ear. I’m just going to keep an eye on things.”

“Okay. Sure. I’ll be out in five.”

“Take your time.”

William fastened his seat belt as he sat next to Pete and I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible in the backseat that was cramped with packages. They took the familiar roads to the home of the elderly couple that let William take his fill of the Montauk Daisies that grew like wildflowers on their property. They’d been welcoming him for seven years and one of his first lessons in responsibility was giving value for value. At first, he’d gift them drawings he made and sand art projects. He moved on to giving them some of the polished stones he found on the beach in his backyard and then meals he cooked with his father.

Dink was still hale, and Buttercup was in her prime, so he didn’t learn about the transitory and cruel nature of aging through their dogs. Instead, he saw this couple grow progressively frailer as he and they grew older. William still came by to pick the flowers for his beloved Aunt Daisy, but now his gifts in trade were always meals that they could easily heat up and enjoy without expending too much effort.

When times dictated that I stay close, I was privileged to witness their relationship. He would pick his Montauk Daisies, bundle them together with twine and sit with them on their porch as he told them about his week and listened patiently to their stories, many of which he had heard before. The boy had a remarkable attention span for someone who was 11, but only when it came to those he loved. They were surrogate grandparents and he could sense them slipping away.

Cooler bags filled the back seat as Pete drove, William looked out the window and I watched for threats while trying not to appear to eavesdrop when my young charge spoke.

“Pete, I have some money. A lot, actually. Birthdays and Christmas and my Communion. I don’t need it. If you, you know, need some money, you can have it.”

Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw the edges of his lips curling up, Pete tried to remain serious as he kept his eyes on the road. “Thank you, William.” He tried to give this the solemnity it deserved. “Where is this coming from?”

“I heard Mom and Dad talking. Dad was worried about you, but Mom said you had millions in ... stuff. I forget. Funds and stuff? Investments? But Dad said you didn’t, and you put all your money into the distillery and potato farm and it hasn’t made any money yet. I don’t know who’s right, but I have some money if you need it.”

“Your mom’s keeping track of me, huh? Maybe she should stay out of other people’s business sometimes.” Sounding a bit annoyed, Pete sighed. “That was a very generous offer, William. Thank you. I’m okay though. I’m closer to your mom’s estimate than your dad’s. You know your dad’s aunt Cynthia? Who your sister is named for? She was my aunt too. She left money to me, your dad and your Aunt Daisy. But if it ever comes to it, I’ll remember your offer, okay?”

“Sure. No problem. Uh, Pete, you know that I know what happened, right?”

“When?”

“When I was a baby. Nobody talks to me about it, but I’ve heard people and I listen. Dink stopped someone from kidnapping me. Dad got hurt and Mom freaked out. And you slept on the porch and wouldn’t let anyone in the house. You know they talk about you, right? You’re like an example or something. Some super tough killer guy was out there, and you slept on the porch with a bat protecting us when Dad and Aunt Daisy were in the hospital.”

I perked up hearing this. That assault was what prompted my hiring and the Corrigans to get serious about security. I listened as Pete responded.

“That’s ... It wasn’t really like that. I’m not like them. I just do what I can.”

“Okay, but ... well I know I’m not a man yet, but I’m not a little kid. I just wanted you to know that I know and to say thanks.”

“You’re welcome, I guess, but anyone would have done it. I didn’t really do anything.”

William paused before speaking. “Pete, if you have all that money, how come you work for Mom and Dad?”

“It’s, well, it’s complicated. I don’t really think of it like I’m working for them. I like driving. I like working on cars and you’re the closest thing I have to family. I don’t do it as much as I did before the distillery, but I enjoy getting out and being with you guys and driving around.”

“Okay. Can we stop at the farmstand?”

“Sure. Getting strawberries?”

“Yup. It’s the first weekend for them. We put whipped cream and Angel’s Food Cake in the bags. Strawberry shortcake.”

“It’s a good thing you’re doing for them. You know that, right?”

“I guess. They’re nice and sorta lonely.”

“You’re a good kid, William.”

William insisted on carrying in the packages himself. It took him three trips. Pete and I leaned against the back of his car while William picked through the daisies. I had a large bottled water and Pete had a large insulated cup with cranberry juice and Sprite. The concoction made me shudder.

“He’s right, Pete. There’s a respect that everyone has for you that might not be, I don’t know, obvious. They’ve got 21 people on security and all of them know the story about you guarding the house while the family slept. It means a hell of a lot more to them knowing that you had no training or, you know, inclination for that sort of thing. I’d get respect if I stayed there fully armed and it’s my freakin’ job.”

“It’s ... Look, I really don’t like talking about this, okay? It wasn’t brave or anything, I mean, what was I going to do? How could I not do it?”

Smiling, I replied. “I love that you don’t see that as bravery. Okay, we’ll drop it. So, he’s much ... gentler with you. He’s one very angry kid, but with you or Shiv or the dog, he’s like he used to be.”

“How much of that is Tommy being gone?”

“I don’t know, but it can’t help. The two of them seemed closest to Marisol and William always looked up to Tommy. With Shiv collapsing and Tommy in Brazil, who is William turning to?”

A look of anger on his face, Pete turned away. “What’s he thinking? Brazil? His wife needs him.”

“Yeah, it’s ... he’s sort of broken, Pete. So, he’s destroyed and he lost one of the people he loves most in the world and immediately after that his wife deliberately chooses to put herself at serious risk of death. No talking to him, no farming it out. He sees it as, I don’t know, a betrayal. Instead of ensuring that she stays alive for him, the person he needs during the worst time in his life chooses vengeance.”

“You seem to know a lot about this. How come?”

Bending over, I picked up some pebbles and started slowly tossing them, one by one. “I went down there. I talked to him. He’s ... different.”

“Different? How?”

“He’s not eating and he’s drinking. A lot. He’s fighting. Unsanctioned fights on the beaches of San Paolo. The fights are up on Youtube. He goes down there twice a week and invariably some other black belt will challenge him. He’s beating the snot out of people and his family down there is all excited like he’s some sort of Jiu Jitsu messiah. It’s bad, Pete. He doesn’t talk to anyone, he doesn’t teach. He trains, he fights, and he drinks.”

“That’s ... that’s not Tommy. Does Shiv know about this?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t told her, but she may have seen the videos. He looks like crap. Scruffy, half beard thing going on. Hygiene sort of sucks.”

Pete nudged me and nodded towards William. He was kneeling in the dirt, concentrating as he tied a bundle of Montauk Daisies together with twine, the tip of his tongue poking out of the side of his mouth. “Remind you of anyone?”

“Jordan slipping away from Ewing to sink a three, tongue hanging out the whole time?”

“Got it in one. So, you went down to Brazil? Did he talk to you?”

“Not at first. I found out where he hung out and he’d get up and leave every time I walked in. His family refused to tell him I was there when I came by. They wouldn’t even let me on the property.”

“So, what changed?”

“I went where he wouldn’t run. The beach. There was a big crowd and the word had gotten out that some famous undefeated prospect was coming down that day. I got there first and beat the crap out of Tommy. And then, of course, he beat the crap out of me. His stand-up game sucks and I roughed him up pretty good before he got me down to the sand and then it was over. I’m still not moving right. There wasn’t a thing I could do. It was like wrestling a guy twice his size who had four arms and six legs. His face was lit up and I felt like I needed traction, the crowd was pissed, and his supposed opponent was disappointed. We made our way to a local bar, drank and talked.”

“Well? Is he coming back? Does he know how lost Shiv is?”

“You ... Fuck, Pete, it was pathetic. It just tore my soul to sit there and listen to him. You know she did this to him before, right? After that guy came for William? Just cut off all contact and almost got herself killed, not caring what it did to him. Then that bullshit with Everett? Shiv let Tommy think she was falling in love with that wanna be James Bond so they could get him and the Senator he worked for. Now she goes out again and takes down pimps and drug dealers when he needs her the most. Seriously, if she had gotten killed, he would have opened his veins and followed her the next day.”

Feeling the evening breeze coming in, I paused and called out. “William, want your jacket?”

The boy kept working.

“William?”

“If I wanted my jacket, I’d get my jacket.”

“So, I’ll take that as a no?” Pete heard me mumble. “Freakin’ brat.”

Looking exasperated, Pete raised his hands, palms up in the universal ‘well?’ expression. “And? Is he coming?”

“Yeah. I’m picking him up at JFK at 11:00.”

“Tonight?”

“Yeah.”

“What did you say to get him on the plane?”

“That’s ... I can’t talk about that. I gave him some information that he needed, he wrapped stuff up there and got a ticket.”

“Well, that’s good, right?”

“I think so. Cross your fingers. Speaking of which...”

I looked over to William as he sat on the ground near the Vannarows porch. He worked as the old couple spoke with him and shared one of the meals he brought.

“William, we gotta get going, buddy.”

“You go. I’ll get an Uber.”

“No, that’s not going to work. We’ve got to go.”

“You’re not my Dad, Jim. I’ll get an Uber.”

“You’re right, I’m not your dad, so I can say things he can’t or won’t. I don’t care how hurt you are or how special you think you are. Unless you’re delusional enough to believe that the training from your aunt and uncle means you can take me, get your raggedy ass in the damn car.”

Halfway home, he turned and glared at me. “I’m gonna have Dad fire you.”

“You can try, buddy. You can try.”


JENNIFER

“C’mon, Shiv. Let’s go see your brother and Father-in-Law.”

Finn had somehow gotten it in his head that he needed a shed that he could roll his large smokers into. Apparently, the tarpaulins weren’t working as well as he’d like. He was determined to build it with William and help from the men that helped him build Cynthia’s crib while I was pregnant.

That crib was a centerpiece of our lives and we kept Cynthia in it for way too long. It was beautiful and hideous, a product of too little talent and an abundance of love. Everyone helped Finn create the labor of love for his daughter. It was his escape from his endless worrying about the long-lasting effects of my stroke and how it would impact the pregnancy.

It was always Finn, Tommy, and Pete. Both Finn’s and Tommy’s fathers would come by, share some beer and offer advice. The security guys would come around after work and share more beer and some chili or whatever else Finn had cooked up. They would all tone down the language and off-color jokes when I was there or if William was handing them tools, but they were men being men.

William claimed it was magic, and in a way he was right. Guided by Youtube tutorials and Pete, the only one of them that was good with his hands, a butt-ugly crib was crafted that I wouldn’t replace with something made by the world’s greatest craftsmen. I sometimes still get misty-eyed when I think back on how proud they all were.

None of them could walk for me, steady my palsied hand or help my slurred speech, but they could show their love by creating something for my daughter.

How on earth could I tell Finn that we should hire someone to build the shed? It will leak, it won’t be very secure and I’m sure it won’t be squared off, but I’ll hire someone to come in quietly after the fact and do some touch-ups.

We stopped in the kitchen on our way to the backyard and I took my rivaroxaban and multivitamins. After swallowing, I looked to Siobhan. “You taking your iron and folic acid?”

She nodded her head and I spoke again. “You know if you’re not, I’m going to use some of my kung-fu and kick your butt.”

A brief smile broke through her perpetually sad mien before she responded. “I’m not that far gone, Corrigan. Don’t push your luck.”

Eyes tearing, I pulled her in with my good right arm, kissed her cheek and hugged her. “I love you. We need you, all of us. We’re here for you.” I felt her nod her head and we took a minute before stepping outside.

Finn and Tommy’s dad were drinking from cans of Heady Topper as they gestured, talking about the placement of the shed and rearranging the backyard layout.

“Don’t go thinking you’re going to move my garden!”

Turning, they saw us and headed our way. “A sight to behold. Two beautiful women on a wonderful summer evening.” Tommy’s dad had a wonderful Brazilian accent that made the corniest of lines seem like poetry.

I knew that he was hurting after Marisol’s tragedy, but he hid it well. Taking Shiv’s hands, he looked her in the eyes. “My son is an idiot. You are stronger than you know. You will be fine. I know this, yes? You and I, we know each other, yes?”

She was holding back tears as she answered. “Yes, Sensei.”

He was her coach or teacher or whatever they call it when she competed in Jiu Jitsu tournaments. I couldn’t care less about that stuff. I knew that he loved her like a daughter, and that’s all I needed to know.

“Are you ready to go? I’ll drive you home?”

“No, I’m ... I’m going to stay a while. Maybe see William when he gets back.”

“He’s a good boy. You call me if you want. I drive you when you’re ready.”

She kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

As he said goodbye, I gave him a brief hug. “Please give Finn a hand, Mr. Oliveira. He’s going to need some help and he respects your opinion. I’ll keep an eye on Siobhan. I have your number. I’ll call if things get bad.”

He lightly patted my cheek and kissed my forehead. “Thank you, Jennifer. You are strong like she is. Just different.”

Siobhan curled up on the couch and sat quietly while Cynthia watched cartoons. Dink lay next to her, his broad back pushed against her legs. She’d absent-mindedly reach down and stroke his fur while seemingly lost in her thoughts.

We had dinner when Finn and William returned. It was a quick affair, not like some of our family meals that could easily last 90 minutes. When we were done eating, Shiv turned to William.

“C’mon, champ. Let’s go in the backyard and roll a bit.”

“No, I’m not doing that anymore.”

Siobhan looked surprised. “What?”

“I’m not doing it. I’m not ... I don’t care about Jiu Jitsu anymore.”

Finn pushed his plate forward. “Let’s just calm down. William, sometimes we do things for other people even if it’s no longer for us. Why don’t you compromise and go out for, say, half an hour with your aunt?”

His voice grew louder. “No! No, it’s ... it’s shit! It’s all shit and I’m not doing it.”

Cynthia seemed shocked and almost pleased. “William said a bad word!”

I pushed his chair with my good foot and my voice got lower. “William, apologize to your aunt right now. We don’t use that language in this house, especially at the dinner table. Apologize and go to your room. Your father and I will be up there when we’re ready to talk to you.”

“Fine! You think I want to stay down here? Half her family studies martial arts. Did that help Marisol? It’s all ... It’s all bullshit! And Tommy doesn’t care about us. He’s down making videos of himself in Brazil beating people up. I don’t care anymore. It’s all bullshit! And he’s not my uncle!”

We were shocked into silence as he stomped upstairs.

Siobhan got up and went into the living room and Finn looked my way before speaking. “We’ve waited too long. We need to get him to talk to someone. We have a list of five therapists. I don’t care which, just choose one and spend whatever you need to get an appointment this week.”

Stacey Khalil was a family friend as well as a brilliant physician. She had put together the list for us and I was going to start at the top and work my way down. The first therapist that we could get to see William would get our business.

Determined to let my foul-mouthed pre-teen stew, I joined Shiv in the living room. She was curled up on the couch, watching something on her phone and rocking back and forth. “Shiv? You okay?”

“He was right. Oh my God, William was right. What have I done? I drove Tommy away and now he’s fighting people on the beach. Sweet Tommy is fighting people and ... and not like before. It’s not artistry. He’s ... he’s hurting these people. Jennifer, what have I done? I’ve destroyed my husband.”

Tommy was the sweetest man on earth. She had to be exaggerating. Plopping down next to her, I gave Shiv a quick side-hug and took the phone. I played what she had last watched. It was a compilation video on YouTube from something called MMAWorld. Tommy had five fights, all filmed with cell phones and spliced together. His head was shaved, and he was working on a full beard and mustache.

Shiv was right. MMAWorld was lauding this new phenom and talked about his earlier matches and the Abu Dabi Jiu Jitsu world championships before he dropped out of competing, but all I could see was our gentle, kind, friendly Tommy deliberately and cruelly hurting people, time and again.

Finn and I stayed up late with his sister. She needed our love and reassurances. We were drinking beers from Blue Point Brewery; she was drinking Bruce Cost Ginger Ale. Our son could stay in his room for the night and think about how he was treating the people he loved.


JIM

It’s weird how you don’t notice absences. It’s like when you are getting over an injury. You don’t notice the healing in your strained wrist until you just naturally reach out for something and grab it and realize you couldn’t do that two days ago. That was the feeling I had what I stepped into Delta’s international arrival building at JFK. I noticed that the airport didn’t seem to have the omnipresent diesel aroma it used to.

I checked his gate on the notice board, realized the flight was on time and made my way down to baggage claims. Half an hour later and there he was. Tommy looked like an anemic Kimbo Slice as he came down the elevator in a sleeveless t-shirt and sunglasses. Bald head, bushy beard, and sunglasses on in the middle of the night.

Sort of a douchey look, but whatever. He was back and that was all that mattered.

“I’ve got two bags. Pull up the car. I’ll be out in about half an hour.”

I walked over to the water fountain, took a drink and slowly walked back. I could feel his eyes on me the whole time.

“You think I work for you, Tommy? Pull your head out of your ass. I’m off the clock, this is ‘friend of the family’ category. Even if it wasn’t, I work for Finn, nobody else.”

He stared at me until I spoke again. “How’s the jaw?”

Tommy removed his sunglasses, gave a small smile, lightly ran his fingertips along his jaw and replied. “It fucking hurts. You’re a damn lunatic, you know that? And you’re up on YouTube. Some sort of cowboy. Mystery man comes out of nowhere, almost knocks out the local guy and then disappears. Just great for my reputation. Of course, they didn’t show me taking you down and making you beg like a little girl.”

Tucking his sunglasses into his shirt pocket, Tommy stretched out his hand. When I shook it, he pulled me in for a brief bro hug.

“You know, if you were lying the two of us are going to go round and round again.”

“I wasn’t lying, Tommy. That’s not who I am. You know that.”

He sighed. “Yeah, I guess so. It doesn’t matter. I had to come back sometime. How is she doing?”

“Not so good. She’s in therapy. I think that they’re trying to get someone for William as well. He’s changed almost as much as you have. She’s not eating, which is sort of frightening, and she’s lost a bunch of weight. That can’t be good, she usually eats like a horse. She always looks exhausted. There’s like, no vitality or something.”

“Jim, if what you were saying is true, it changes everything. She’s pulled this shit before. I know of at least four other times she put herself at risk when she didn’t have to. What does that say about her feelings for me? I’m her husband, but I’m not important enough to stay safe for. That doesn’t work anymore.”

“Yeah, I get ya. Something weird happened when George died and then Cynthia died soon after. Shiv felt like she had to step in and fill her mentor’s shoes. She had to be the next George. Unfortunately, she had this idea of who he was that’s totally unrealistic. He wasn’t Rambo, he was a tactician. But, you know, she’s getting help, talkin’ to someone.”

“Okay, we’ll see how it plays out.” The conveyor belt started and we moved closer to the track with the swell of other passengers. Eyes straightforward, he leaned towards me. “I’ve been a dick. You didn’t deserve my shit.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re good. I may send you my chiropractor’s bill, though.”

Tommy initiated conversations with other passengers while we waited. He asked about their lives, their times in Brazil and if they were in New York on vacation. Seeing him be friendly and gregarious again was the best indicator I could have asked for that he was going to be okay.


WILLIAM

It’s like they don’t even care! Opening my laptop, I started typing while sitting on my bed.

Going to see Marisol’s family. Back in two days. You can yell all you want at me when I get back but I’m NOT LISTENING!

William

PS Pete and I bought Spam to put Dink’s pill in. He’s just licking the peanut butter off his medicine and not eating the pills. Spam is in the cabinet next to his food. Dink is doing the licking, not Pete. Haha.

Turning the printer on, I tried to print the document. Nothing. Lots of toner. Lots of paper. Plugged in. Connectivity. Still nothing.

I went to Cynthia’s room. She was up way too late, but I didn’t squeal on her and she didn’t squeal on me. “Hey, do you have any money up here?” She was playing with her dolls and had a floppy hat on Buttercup’s head. “And don’t put that on Buttercup, she’s a dog, not a doll.”

“How much?”

“What’ve you got?”

“I don’t know. How long do you need it?”

“Uhhmmm, ‘till next Monday?”

“Okay, top draw. You can take it.”

“Thanks. Tell Mom and Dad to look at my laptop, but wait until tomorrow, okay?”

She was paying attention to the dolls. “Okay.”

I grabbed her money, added it to mine, packed my backpack with some clothes and a framed picture of Marisol and me and climbed out my window. My phone was left next to the laptop. I didn’t want Jim or Cherrie tracking me. The trellis got me down to the first floor and the grass. I waited for Isabella and David to walk around the house and knew it would be twenty minutes before they made another sweep.

Going to the backyard, I walked along our beach, then Mr. Harrison’s and then the Finch’s. Their dog Buddy was out, and I played with him for a minute before continuing.

It was just over four miles to the Montauk Lighthouse. I knew that for sure ‘cause I had to hear Mom talk about it a million times. She first met Dad near there when he was out jogging with Dink. I could get there in 90 minutes. I’m strong and I’m fast. The last bus leaves at 11:30. I can be in Riverhead by 1:00 am and meet Mr. Oliviera in the morning. He was Marisol’s uncle and could give me her parent’s address.

I could take an Uber from there.

It was dark and cold and sort of ... open and ... dark. No one was around and I kept walking. I wasn’t afraid though. I knew where I was going. Mom works at the lighthouse sometimes. I’ve been there tons and knew where I was going. I wasn’t scared. It was just really dark.

I felt better when I was able to see it in the distance. The gift shop was closed, but they had vending machines. The one with sandwiches looked gross, so I bought seven candy bars, a bottle of water and a Coke. There was an old guy on the bench near the bathrooms, so I got him a water and some of the nut bars with raisins. They looked healthy.

How do people do this? I didn’t know if I should just go up to him and give it to him or what. Sitting on the bench, I ate one of the candy bars and drank my soda. “Uhhmm, the machine gave me too many. You want some of these?”

I put three of the bars and the water on the bench.

“Thanks, kid. Whatchoo doin’ out so late? Dontchoo have school or somethin’ tomorrow?”

“It’s summer. No school.”

“Oh. Well, thanks. Wachout for the gulls. You leave stuff out, they’ll grab it. Nasty things.”

“Okay. Thanks. I gotta go wait for the bus. Have a good night.”

“You too, kid.” He took a swig of the water. “Sláinte.”

“Slàinte agad-sa.”

“Hey, that’s pretty good, kid.”

“Yeah, my grandparents are pretty Irish crazy. Do you, uh, do you need some money?”

“Nah, I’ll be fine. You catch your bus, kid. Have an adventure.”

Maybe all the regular people were at home, ‘cause the bus driver was pretty old too. He had to be 40 or even older. I had no idea what a bus ride cost, so I had a fifty ready.

“You alone, son?”

“Uhhm, yeah.”

“Where’re your folks?”

“I’m, ah, meeting my dad.”

“Where?”

Why was this guy asking me so many questions? “Farmingville.” I wasn’t going to give him the right answer.

“Okay. Son, you sure everything is all right? I can call someone if you’d like.”

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s no problem. Dad’s waiting for me at the stop in Farmingville.”

“Right. Well, it’s $4.35 for the ride. Do you have anything smaller?”

“Uhmmm...” I checked. $50’s, $100’s and a few $20’s. I’d used my singles on the vending machine. I found a $5. “Oh, right. Sure. Here.”

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