Musings on writing, M/M Fantasy and Erotic Romance, and life.

Trainwreck

Trainwreck Book One

wp-1459649682045.jpeg“Trainwreck: Book One” by Michele Micheal Rakes, Drai Bearwomyn, Tina Adamski, Dan Skinner –

“Logging on to the LAPD secure server, Vince checked his inbox, and was pleased to see the M.E.’s preliminary report. Mac was right, the victim had distilled water in her lungs, but the cause of death wasn’t drowning. The girl had suffered a heart attack. Under the post-mortem notes Mac detailed the cause of death as a heart attack during a time of extreme stress. The deteriorated condition of her heart was the result of severe malnutrition and ongoing physical abuse. The report concluded with the manner of death as homicide and was accompanied by photos detailing the wounds. Also noted were the scars indicating long-term abuse and the telltale signs of significant sexual assault. No DNA evidence yet. Mac suspected the body had been washed before storage. The promise of a detailed report to follow, including a narrower window for time of death. At the moment, Mac suspected the girl died sometime Wednesday night. Determination of exact TOD would take some time, he said, due to the body’s decomposition being retarded by cold storage. Presumably, the guy killed her Wednesday, kept the girl around in—what? A chest freezer? Dumped her Thursday night? Vince didn’t like it, didn’t like homicide, but something niggled in the back of his brain. Significant sexual assault. In the place where Vince kept the nasty stuff locked up tight, something cracked open just a tiny bit. Vague memories slithered into his forebrain. -Shut that shit down. Focus on the victim, Sweetwater. Vince clicked through the photos, studying their implications. From the level of bruising, it appeared she had struggled violently against her bonds. Maybe in panic. The fear of drowning can produce a kind of madness. The mental image of the pretty girl being held under water, her green eyes wide with fear until she stopped thrashing, flashed through his mind. Vince buried the nightmare. Instead, he sifted through the pictures, looking for the ones of her back. Small puncture wounds riddled her skin. Some of the injuries appeared ripped, like a hook had been imbedded in her flesh and then torn out. The pattern seemed familiar. There were fresh wounds and old scars. She had suffered the same abuse many times. Mac apparently had no guess as to what weapon was used to make the marks.”

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Pride Promotions book tour for Trainwreck still chugging along, come join the ride.

final.jpgFollow Pride Promotions blog tour and giveaway for Trainwreck the series on Wednesdays.


Pride Promotions

willpride.jpgIn February, I will team up with Pride Promotions for a weeks long blog tour to introduce Detective Sergeant Vincent Sweetwater, the hero of Trainwreck the Series. January 25th, 2016 was the release day for the first in a five part series. Vince is a trainwreck. So is his life and sexuality. A true sexually sadistic killer may be the one who brings Vince off the tracks of self-destruction and back into a life of redemption.

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Trainwreck by Michele Micheal Rakes

Chapter One

 

Vincent Sweetwater twisted the Harley’s throttle. The tension of the motor thrummed between his legs. The bike seemed heavy, angry, like she wanted to fall flat on her face. Like she yearned to drag him across the gritty asphalt stretched long beneath them. Vince needed to feel the pavement shred his clothing. To bite into his skin. A punishment for being a man who thrived on suffering.

Why can’t I control myself, damn it?

You’re supposed to be one of the good guys.

Fuck off.

Stop drinking, Sweetwater.

Vince imagined choking the life out of his conscience. The damn thing made it difficult to be an asshole, yet somehow it didn’t stop him. Nothing seemed to stop him from being a dick to his wife. Vince twisted the throttle, letting the speed numb his mind.

The machine growled beneath him, giving her two fucking cents, and he ignored the wanton slut. Vince was too malicious to give her what she craved. If he did, there would be no turning back. Still, the iron bitch demanded more power.

Urged by a quiet whisper somewhere in the dark of his mind, Vince let off the throttle long enough to squeeze the clutch and toe it into sixth. Then there was nothing but speed, wind, and emptiness. The black of the night enveloped him as he rode beyond the limits of his headlights leaving the asphalt a blur.

The ocean whispered to him from below the cliff side. He considered leaning to the right. To take the dive he knew he deserved. Instead, he kept his eyes on the road, glancing at the speedometer only out of curiosity. He no longer cared what laws he was breaking.

The bike responded beneath him with a throaty growl, no longer angry. She loved him. He was giving her what she wanted. Always reading his mind. Like a lover, reacting to the slightest twitch of his muscles. In a strange way, she was a part of him. A complete fusion of flesh and machine. Vince couldn’t think of a better way to die.

The road rumbled beneath the wheels, relentless and vindictive, waiting for the moment when he made his fatal mistake. Vince pushed at the Harley’s limits, but the machine had none. She caved to his need. He was going to have to rein her in if he didn’t want to die. The machine didn’t care. Neither did Vince, not anymore, so they both sped into the night. It would be chickenshit for him to stop now. Mica deserved his blood. He owed his wife so much more than his death.

Christ, I shouldn’t have hurt her. Vince could taste his own bitterness. The smell of tequila on his breath, trapped inside the black, full-face helmet. Is this what death is going to taste like – tequila?

The drink made him mean. Just like his Dad. Like his grandfather. He should have left Mica long ago. Saved her the pain of a vicious cycle of drunken abuse.

The memories swirled in his head. Buffeted by the events of the evening. The pain he inflicted on his wife. Vince wouldn’t allow any excuses, yet so many things were beyond his control. Past horrors still tainting his life – horrors Mica never suspected. Most of them he managed to forget. Only the vague sense of a smudged soul remained.

Now, his little world was falling apart. Unraveling beneath him, just like this endless road. Every tragedy lingered inside his skull. Vince imagined the road was waiting for him to trip over the edge. Ready to swallow him whole or snap him into little pieces to grind and chew.

Vince squeezed the throttle. Like his father, he fueled his dark side. Let it run rampant rather than exert any self-control. Spoon fed on pain, helping it grow strong.

Fine work, Sweetwater, why don’t you just stand in Daddy’s fucking shadow. Sit in prison with the old man. Have some father-son time. Christ, I’m an idiot! Mica will be happier in the morning. When they scrape my body off the pavement, she’ll have closure.

What a stupid word, closure. It’s a shrink’s word. They can’t fix me. I can’t fix me.

The death grip on the throttle thrust him headlong into the black. There would be no moment of correction. No saving himself if something went wrong. It was only a matter of time. Vince was anticipating the moment. Hell, the thought of it made him half-hard. The instrument of all his evil twitched to life at the idea of his own pain, tightening his jeans.

Vince replayed the events of the evening over again in his mind. His own form of self-flagellation. He was merciless. It was agony knowing he had hurt the only woman he loved. The only person he had left to love him. The woman he had endured so much pain to protect over the years, damaged by his own hand. None of this was her fault. Yet, it never seemed to stop him from being cruel. Even when it killed him to be such a man. Since their daughter’s death he had become the monster he’d feared. The monster who haunted his nightmares. Vince knew it was time to put an end to everyone’s suffering.

Will I see my little girl again?

Headlights glittered from around a curve in the highway. Opportunity materialized in those yellowed orbs. Vince leaned toward the center line. The bike tried to stand up, but Vince muscled it back onto its horrifying track. The feeling unnatural. His body wanted to lean away from the oncoming car, but his mind fought the urge. The bike drifted into the opposing lane. The Harley cleared the front end of the passing car as it veered to avoid the collision. Vince’s chest burned with the sudden relief. His heart stuttered a few anxious beats.

In the darkness, he didn’t see the trailer until it careened wildly in the swerve. The Harley clipped the end of the trailer. Violently, the bike corkscrewed as the impact ripped the handlebars from Vince’s grasp only to snap back and shatter his hand. He hit the pavement as the bike twisted. There was a sick snap in his lower leg as the slide began.

It was like watching a movie in slow motion. The sound in his ears seemed hollow and far away. The metal and asphalt snarling against each other as the bike kicked up to tumble over him once more. Rag-dolling out of control, Vince wrenched his hip. The only thing he could see was the arc of his headlights like a sick beacon in the dark as the bike sailed over his head. Then the rear tire slammed into his helmet.

It was dark. Vince held his breath. His hip ached. The sheets were soaked. Fists still knotted the fabric as his hand spasmed. Was it the dream that woke him, or something else? For a moment he listened to the quiet room. He let his breath go and moved disjointedly to sit on the edge of the bed. His t-shirt clung to him. Vince yanked it over his head, tossing it on the floor, adding it to the growing pile.

“Damn it! Give me a fucking break.” Vince blew out a shaky breath. When would he stop dreaming about the wreck? It was bad enough he survived. Worse yet, he was restarting his life again in the morning, returning to work. “Jesus, I need some sleep.”

Nearly two years of hospitalization and rehab repaired his physique, but not his psyche. The shrink talked about survivor’s guilt, grief, and self-deprecation. Terms like self-hatred and self-harm were thrown around to the point he was afraid they wouldn’t let him return to work. Hell, work was all he had left. Vince had to convince his shrink it was an accident. Not an attempt at suicide.Not a well thought out attempt, anyway. I’m so not ready.

“I need to fucking piss.”

The bathroom light cast an inviting glow. Vince rubbed his leg. The fracture had healed, but it still ached. Standing stiffly, he crossed the room with a peculiar gait. The side effect of a shattered left hip and a broken right leg.Not gimpy, just odd.

After flushing the toilet, Vince glanced around the pink bathroom. The bathtub was still full of toys. Barbie dolls with matted hair and Bumblebee in a state of half transformation. He tried to bend down to pick up the toy, but he was too stiff. Vince overworked himself with the Nautilus earlier in the day. His foster brother, Nick, accused him of reinjuring himself, but the bastard was looking for any reason to keep him sidelined.

Vince turned to the sink to splash cool water on his face.  Stopped short by the little carved bar of soap in the dish, he gave a withering sigh.  With a shaky finger he traced the delicate dolphin he had carved for his little girl.

“Maybe it was bad idea sleeping in your room, baby girl. For a split second, I thought – I’d heard you.”

Daddy?

“Dead voices can’t be good, Sweetwater.” He leaned closer to the mirror, trying to find a semblance of the human being he once knew, instead of this shattered shell he hated.

“Jesus, what’re you doing to yourself, man?”

Vince spoke to the desolate visage in the mirror. The one staring out from under shoulder length hair the color of dirty straw, unwashed and stringy, with haggard green eyes full of pain. Pale stubble covered his jaw. He had his father’s high Indian cheekbones. Soft, full lips compressed flat with disappointment as he shook his head and pushed from the counter to return to the drenched bed.

“Okay, one more night almost down. Way too many to go. You really should stop talking to yourself, man. Doesn’t help the psych evals any.”

A bottle of vodka said hello from his nightstand. Who the hell was he to deny such a sweet invitation? He snatched up one of his bottles of narcotics. The rattle soothed his soul. Alcohol and pills made such beautiful companions. They were a difficult duo to deny.

“Don’t want the vodka to be lonely.”

Not lonely like you.

“Shut the fuck up, Jiminy Cricket.”

Or you’ll do what?

“I hate you.”

There you go with the self-hatred again, what would your shrink say?

“Karen can fuck off, along with you.”

Not counting how many pills fell into his hand, Vince tossed them back hoping to kill the voice in his head. He sat for a long dark moment. Gone somewhere in his head. He shivered and took another drink.

Vince grabbed the remote and clicked on the news. He paid little attention as he rubbed his aching hip. When Lola Romero began her news report he glanced up to see an official photo of himself in uniform.

“Jesus, talk about an old fucking picture.”

Not young and fresh faced despite being only twenty-three in the photo. His eyes had held a kind of darkness even then, his best efforts unable to hide the pain.

“An L.A.P.D. Information officer confirmed the return to duty of Detective Vincent Sweetwater just one week after a horrifying display of violence toward a man reportedly beating his five year old son in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Inglewood. Detective Sweetwater was nearly killed last year in a motorcycle accident on the Pacific Coast Highway and is still under scrutiny following rumored discrepancies while under deep cover with the narcotics division.”

“Bite me, Lola!” Vince shut off the TV, flopping back on the bed, staring into the darkness.

“Fuck, this life sucks. It was more than a year ago, Bitch.”

I hate people.

*****

The screen illuminated the darkened room, glinting in the man’s glasses. The news cast enthralled him. He couldn’t believe his luck. Just when he thought his mistake was irreparable, he was given a fortuitous gift by the fates, and was not one to let opportunity slip away.

He watched with rapture as Lola Romero raked Detective Vincent Sweetwater over the proverbial coals. The boy was all grown up. He wondered if it would be fun to play with him a little. He hadn’t thought of him in years. His mind turned over all the possibilities. It could mean he’d get caught, but hell, even Bundy got caught, and he was good. There were others who were better, but with notoriety came consequences. If he was caught, then maybe he would see him again. The mistake he brutally shoved away. Sweetwater’s father. The man had cost him his career, family and eventually his sanity. All because he had loved him.

When Lola was finished the man rose from his square-backed armchair. He drifted through his kitchen to a locked door, removing a key from around his neck. The door opened to a darkened stairwell. With precision, he turned on the light and descended the stairs. Once on the floor, he crossed to a large, white, chest freezer. A slight rustle echoed from the corner, he turned toward the sound. “Ssh, quiet little mouse, you don’t want to attract attention to yourself.”

The room went silent and he turned back to the freezer. His hand hovered lovingly over the lid before he lifted it. “Hey pretty, I know what to do with you now. You’re going to meet the son of an old friend.”

The girl had dead fish eyes. Half-lidded and once green, they stared unseeing from a frost glittered corpse. Hair like sun burnt grass pricked her high cheekbones and fine, full lips. He smoothed it back stiffly. The realization this was to be the last time he felt her youthful body rushed through him like a phantom out of the dark. He was almost surprised at her lack of life.

On a shelf across the room was a rolled-up black tarp which he spread on the floor. With singular effort he struggled to get the partially frozen corpse from the freezer. It landed on the tarp with a sick thud. The man apologized to her as though she were still living, stroking her prickly hair soothingly. He started to roll her into the black plastic, cocooning her in a final darkness, to be reborn in the light of the morning sun. Only then would Vincent Sweetwater come to know her and what she represented.

A grotesque idea sparked in his treacherous mind. There was something he needed to do first to make certain Sweetwater would meet his dear girl. After all, he wasn’t a homicide dick. Lola said he was a narc. Sweetwater needed to learn what she meant to them both.

One more gift to make him truly comprehend her significance. It took time to do what he wanted. The body needed to thaw somewhat, but when he had finished his grisly task an overwhelming gratification burned through his chest. He knew it would take a while for them to find it, but he had left signs for them to follow. The man’s low chuckle stirred something in the basement once more.

“Don’t worry. You’ll have your turn soon enough.”

He returned the body to the black plastic and wrapped her quickly. There was not much time left in the night. The man worked hastily, lugging the corpse over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry to the garage and dump her into the trunk. It had to be this morning. A present for the detective’s first day back on the job. This was going to be fun. The man fussed with the corpse, working to get her situated in the deep well of the trunk.

*****

“What are you doing?”

Vince’s head jerked up, torn from his thoughts by the sleepy voice of his wife.

“Breakfast,” he said as he held up his beer bottle.

Mica grunted and grabbed the orange juice from the fridge. Vince reached up to retrieve a glass from the cupboard behind him. With a thank you she took the glass, filled it, and placed the jug back in the fridge.

“My breakfast is better than yours,” she commented dryly.

“That’s your opinion.”

Vince was acutely aware of his wife’s stare. Mica did it often, sometimes not concerned with whether he noticed, or not. It had been hard for her when he moved back into the apartment. His appearance still overwhelmed her despite their familiarity. For the past year he had kept her at a distance. It was her empathy he attempted to avoid. Still, he could see it in her eyes, her quiet perusal of his physical condition, and sometimes there was heat in her stare. The idea she could still be attracted to him hurt most of all.

Standing shirtless and tired, Vince leaned against the counter. The tattoos painting his arms and chest, along with the surgical scars marring his abdomen appeared grotesque in the bare kitchen light. His belly was hard, but thicker than it had been. The chest tube scar below and to the side of his right nipple looked like a second belly button. An umbilicus giving life by draining away the blood compressing his lungs. He couldn’t forget the pain or the relief of its entry. One of the few memories he had of the emergency room before slipping back into unconsciousness. Sometimes he wondered how he made it from that growling, spitting animal back into this human form. They said he was only aware on a primal level, but he swore he remembered something. Crying or screaming, it may have been him, but he sort of thought it was Mica.

The road rash scar began at his knee. It’s where he caught her gaze, sliding up to where it disappeared beneath his shorts. The tattoo of a panther on his thigh looked like a burned, skinned cat. Holes left by the external bars holding his right leg together while it knitted were filled by an angry shade of maroon. His relief at losing the cage around his leg had been the one thing he felt any excitement over in the last year. The scars Mica couldn’t see were the ones at his hip and through his heart.

Vince’s hair hung damp. Limp about his face and hunched shoulders, he could see it in his periphery as he lowered his eyes to stare at the floor. He couldn’t take Mica’s pitiful blue eyes, anymore, soft and emotion soaked. Heavy lids drooped, obliterating the glaring light for a moment. He was wired and weary at the same time.

“Nightmare?” Mica asked.

“Again.”

“Headache?”

“Of course,” he snarled.

“Sheets soaked?”

He nodded silently and took a drink from his beer. Absently, he rubbed his hip.

“Hip hurting?”

“Always.”

“Why don’t you sleep with me? I have dry sheets. I could rub your hip for you?”

Long past due for some decent sleep, Vince considered the offer. He was going to need all his strength. Again, he thought about the night he tried to kill himself and the reasons why.

“No, thanks, I’m good. I’ll finish this and go back to bed.”

“Fine, there are clean sheets in the linen closet. I don’t think Disney princess sheets are quite you. Do you want me to go remake the bed?”

“I’ll change them.” The truth was he liked those sheets. They reminded him of their daughter. He could smell her still, like flowers. His baby Mary. He knew her scent. She was there. It comforted him. Made him think maybe someday he would see her again. He would’ve seen her sooner if the wreck had killed him like it was supposed to, but he couldn’t even get killing himself right.

Only because you don’t have the balls to eat your gun, asshole. Shouldn’t be too hard to screw it up with a bullet.

“Well, I’m going back to bed if you don’t need me.”

Vince stared.

“Do you need me, Vince?”

His voice stuck in his throat. With a scarce shake of his head, Mica spun and left him behind in the kitchen.

I need you.

Vince watched his wife walk out of the kitchen. Her curling dark hair was a wild tangle. Her fluffy robe accentuated her ass. It made him pause as he knocked back the rest of his beer.

“Jesus, I miss you, Mica.”

Vince went to the linen closet. A brand new set of black twin sheets rested on the middle shelf. With the sheets in hand he went back to his daughter’s bedroom and stripped the princesses from the mattress. The whole time trying to push what his life had become from his mind. Inevitably, he came to the conclusion he would trade places with his little girl in the span of a hummingbird’s heartbeat.

He crawled onto the fresh bed and decided he hated God. Automatically, he reached for the pain pills on the bedside table.

“Did I already take some?”

Unsure, he swallowed them down anyway with the vodka’s help. Vince could care less if he took too many pills. Hopefully, they would kill the pain in his heart, not just his head.

*****

Mica listened to the sounds of her husband in the other room. It was difficult to watch someone slowly obliterate their life after getting a rare second chance. An excruciating spiral down into a living grave. It pissed her off. Selfish bastard, she thought. Then felt sorry for him. He was lost. No matter how many times she forgave him, he couldn’t forgive himself.

Vince liked to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. To be the man everyone needed him to be whether he could do it or not. Always, he pushed himself between her and harm. Sometimes, at great cost to himself. Vince never rested until he knew she was safe.

A lot of years on the job strained their relationship, although he never once discouraged her from a career in law enforcement. Being sick with worry for her safety had put an ulcer in his belly at a young age. Meanwhile, she feared his undercover work would bring trouble to their front door, endangering their daughter. Vince’s pain had started long before they entered law enforcement, but she had only made it worse.

Now she couldn’t get him to sleep in the same bed and she only had herself to blame. That knife was still in his belly. If she were a vindictive woman, it would be easy enough to twist. Mica tossed the thought away. Instead, she plucked a handful of tissue from a box on the bedside table.

Pathetic! I want my life back, my baby in my arms, and my husband whole again.

Exhausted from emotion, Mica cried even when she thought there were no tears left, drifting back into oblivion.

*****

Nick Sarafino ran his pale, slender fingers through his shoulder length black hair. He picked up his drink. Johnny Walker. Neat. He wondered what the next day would bring for Vince. Earlier, Nick had stopped by the apartment to hang out with his foster brother. The man didn’t seem ready to return to the land of the living, much less work. The conversation with Vince had left Nick feeling uneasy.

Nick watched his seven year old twins play Wii bowling. Jennifer was kicking Justin’s ass, but the boy was rallying. Nick’s mind wandered back to Vince. When Nick had opened the door to Vince’s apartment he found his foster brother flat on his back near the weight machine, lying in pain on the carpet.

“What the hell are you doing on the floor, Vince?”

Shirtless wearing a pair of faded grey sweatpants, drenched in sweat, Vince glowered.

“Just help me up.” Vince held out his hand.

Nick levered the man up. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to be so strong.”

“Well, yeah, I work out every day on this damn thing.”

Vince was limping. His body moved stiffly as he went into the kitchen. Nick followed him. Two ice cold beers appeared in his brother’s hands. Nick deftly caught the tossed bottle. Both men quickly removed the tops and tipped the bottles up. An easy ritual. They moved into the living room.

Vince snatched a small towel from the back of the couch and tried to dry his blond hair. Nick watched him sit down. One hand behind him on the arm of the chair as he sat with care. Once down Vince let out a shallow breath.

“Is your hip feeling any better?” Nick flopped on the couch.

“It works, doesn’t it?”

“What kind of answer is that?”

“It’s the kind you’re gonna get,” Vince said before tipping his bottle back. “I’m tired of everyone asking about my hip.”

“It’s hurting. Even I can see it, and if I can, so will Lt. Hanson. Maybe you should wait a couple more months. Mica said you still have plenty of disability left. More PT can’t hurt.”

“Stow it, Nick. I can’t sit the fuck around here another goddamn day.” He shifted to the edge of the chair.

Nick watched in horror as the beer bottle slipped through Vince’s damaged fingers. A visible spasm rocked his brother’s hand. He appeared helpless to stop the bottle’s fall. It landed with a small thud. The carpet absorbing the impact. Red-faced, Vince snatched up the bottle before any more liquid spilled.

“Shit, Mica’s gonna freak.” He dropped his towel to soak up the mess. He pushed himself from the chair. “Don’t worry, Nicko. It’s not my gun hand.”

“So how the hell did you get both your doctor and the shrink to sign off on your return to duty?”

“None of your damn business.” Vince disappeared into the kitchen.

He came back with a fresh beer. “So, Mica’s telling you about me, huh?”

“We talk at work,” Nick said as he leaned forward. “She needs someone to confide in, I guess.”

“Because she can’t talk to me.”

Nick gave him a look, calling him on his bullshit as Vince settled back into his chair.

“Alright, I won’t let her talk to me,” Vince caved.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

Nick could tell Vince was jonesing for a smoke. Those green eyes darted to the sliding door, his fingers twitched as though turning an invisible cigarette. Nick was more than familiar with the way the man twisted his smokes around his thumb and index finger. The irritating flick a common source of annoyance for Nick.

Finally, his brother picked up a pill bottle from the table and shook it. No tell-tale rattle.

“Fuck!” Vince dropped the bottle back on the table.

“Do you have more?”

“Yeah, in the bedroom, on the bedside table.”

Nick stood easily and moved to Vince’s bedroom. From the jealous look on his brother’s face, Nick could imagine a litany of curses flung unhindered at his backside. Little telepathic jabs of aggravation. Vince could no longer move with such ease and it made the man cranky.

Torn between empathy and irritation, Nick tried to hide his emotion. Vince used to not be this way. Maybe it’s the head injury.

“Not that room. The other one,” Vince said.

“You’re sleeping in Mary’s room?”

When Vince didn’t respond, Nick went into his niece’s bedroom for the first time since her death. The room was a pink shrine. A Disney Princess toy box overflowed with an assortment of toys. Most were left where the little girl had dropped them the last time she had played. A growing pile of Vince’s dirty t-shirts lay alongside it. Princess sheets were askew on the bed. The room smelled of musky sweat.

A half empty bottle of vodka sat on the table, incongruent with the cookie monster lamp. The Barbie picture frame held a photo of the family in happier times. Two bottles of pills accompanied the vodka. One of them open and half empty. Nick grabbed it, snapping the lid on tight. Unable to get out of there fast enough, Nick left the room like something was at his heels. The intangible memories of the little girl he had loved filled his heart with an ache. An image of her playing on the floor sprung up in his mind, the tingle of tears in his eyes.

Nick tossed the bottle into Vince’s lap. He tried to burn a hole through his brother’s heart, angry at the man for reasons not entirely Vince’s fault. Why did he have to sleep in that bed? Mica probably wouldn’t allow him in their bed anymore. Nick couldn’t blame her one bit.

Silently, Vince swallowed four of the oblong shaped pills, washing them down with his beer. He looked ashamed. For a moment Nick felt justified in his scornful reproach. It was easy to condemn a man without spending a day in his skin. His brother was hurting just the same as Mica, but at least Mica understood how to deal with the grief. Vince never liked to confront anything dealing with emotions, or his own pain.

“Hell, brother, you’re medicating against heartache. It isn’t your hip hurting you. It’s your heart.”

“Don’t fucking worry about it, Nicko.”

“You sure you’re ready for this?”

“No.” Hazy green eyes swung in Nick’s direction. “I have to do something one way or the other. I’ll go nuts.”

Nick fidgeted under the gaze. “Look, I have to get home. Will you be alright?”

“I don’t need a babysitter, Nick. You know, I might surprise you. I might surprise all of you.”

Nick understood his meaning. Vince referred to everyone at work who didn’t think he would be worth a damn as a detective again. Apparently it was enough to get his brother off his ass and prove them all wrong.

Vince had snapped. It was true, but Nick couldn’t blame him. Beating Jimmy Walker the way he did should have wound Vince up in a cell. Perhaps even a padded one. The man’s grief had saved him from his prison, garnering sympathy from someone higher up than Nick could imagine. All he knew was no one filed charges with the DA. The department, an old hand at subterfuge and mucking up facts for public consumption, enabled Vince’s return to work. Nick knew it was a bad idea. Vince was still suicidal. Nick lied when Lt. Hanson asked him about it point blank. Mica made him promise. The thought of Vince getting himself shot or killed in the line of duty made Nick sick.

 

The twins, whooping it up, jerked Nick from his reverie.

“Almost bedtime,” he told them.

A cacophony erupted from the children.

“Oh my god, Dad! Can’t you shut them up? I’m trying to do my history assignment.” His oldest daughter, Mattie, was twelve. The kid was smart and pretty. Nick knew he was destined for grief. Currently, his little girl was sitting at the dining table. He watched, amused, as she dramatically packed up all her books in a huff.

“It’s due in the morning!”

“If you hadn’t left it until the last minute, you wouldn’t be so stressed!” Her mother hollered from the kitchen.

“I work best under pressure,” Mattie replied.

Angela glared at Nick as she came out of the kitchen. “I blame you, Nick Sarafino.”

Nick shrugged, chuckling as his daughter stomped up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door. Nick finished his Scotch, picked up his twins flour sack style with Jennifer over one shoulder and Justin over the other. He carted them, giggling, up to their bedrooms while his wife turned off the video game console.

 

Nick came into his bedroom sometime later. Angela was already in bed apparently reading up on psychological trauma. A shrink for a wife kept things interesting. Unfortunately, she always analyzed Vince, sometimes complicating matters for Nick.

From the doorway, Nick watched her read. Her straight, black hair framed her dark pixy face. Large, brown eyes darted quickly through the book she was reading. Nick went into the bathroom to brush his teeth, wash his face and brush his hair. Jennifer had fiddled with it while he was reading her a bedtime story and managed to get it tangled.

Back in the bedroom Nick began to strip in front of his wife, grinning lopsided and foolishly. She laughed as he crawled into bed, kissing her lovely dark skin. Nick tugged at her nightgown.

She slapped him away, her face growing serious. “Did you go see Vince today?”

“Yes.”

“Well, how’s he doing?”

“Woman, I’m trying to get between your legs, and you want to talk about my brother? Is there something you want to tell me? Are you having an affair with Vince?”

“Yeah, that’s it, because I can’t resist a male slut.”

“Jesus, put the gloves on, Angela. Don’t worry about him. I promise he’ll be fine. He looked real good. Now, can we get back to your seduction?” He pushed her back into the pillows, his body covering hers as he kissed her playfully.

*****

The girl tripped over her own feet as she staggered down the sidewalk. The night was chilly and she pulled her jacket tighter around her skinny frame. It was getting late, she needed to find someplace to sleep for the night. She could go back to the foster home, but she would rather stick a needle in her eye than go back there to those perfect people with their perfect little brats.

Around the corner, she slipped inside a darkened doorway to hit the last of her shit in the small glass tube. There was little left. What there was tasted burnt, with only a tiny bit of the tang she was hoping to find. She could probably give Tony another blow job and he would take care of her. Pretty soon he was going to get tired of her oral ministrations and would want more. Heidi wasn’t ready to be a total whore, yet.

Heidi pushed her blond hair from her eyes and stepped from the doorway. Not much in the way of traffic on this side street, so she was surprised when a dark car started to pace her. She walked a little ways, and then turned to look at the car. The passenger window slid silently down. A man leaned across the seat. He called to her. Heidi stepped up to the curb, but not the car. “I’m not a hooker.”

“I’m not a cop.”

“What do you want?”

“You look cold,” he said.

“So? What do you want, old man?”

“Blow job?”

Heidi looked around. “Hundred bucks,” she said.

“A hundred dollars? You worth it?” he asked.

“Fuck, yeah. You want it or not, buddy?”

“Get in.”

The man opened the door and she climbed in, every warning bell in her head rang. He rolled the tinted window back up as they pulled from the curb. Heidi awkwardly reached to unzip his pants, keeping her eyes on his crotch, not wanting to look too hard at him with his creeper glasses and graying temples. Instead, she got to work.

While the man drove through the city, Heidi worked on his penis, trying to not think about what she was doing. To not devote too much time considering the fact there was an old man’s dick in her throat.

You’re not a total whore, yet.

The more she worked on him, though, the harder he pushed. His broad hand cupped her skull. Heidi prayed she would have some sort of warning before he topped off.

This doesn’t make you a whore, she told herself, again. It’s not like she was spreading her legs.

The car moved through the empty streets, quietly rolling past the cop cars on patrol to drift farther into nowhere. His hand stroked the back of her head as she bobbed in his lap. Heidi could feel a tremble through his big hand. The bastard got harder. The insistent push at the back of her head forced her to take him deeper.

It’s just currency, she thought. Blowjobs are money.

The man stopped the car to let her finish him. Heidi worked a few more minutes, pulling back as he urged her down. Eventually, the man came. It was agonizing. When it was over she sat up coughing.

“Ok, old man,” she wheezed. “Where’s my money?” Heidi swiped at her face.

The man tucked himself away. A hundred dollar bill appeared. Heidi snatched it from his hand, reaching for the door handle, a tingle of panic in her gut.

“Where the hell are we?”

An explosion of pain erupted in the middle of her face. She bent over in distress, blood gushing from her nose, her mind not quite comprehending what happened. Tears stung her eyes, while the blood pooled in her palm, staining the one hundred dollar bill. Another brutal blow to the back of her head. The pain came again, and then nothing.