He shoved his fingers deep inside her, dug for evidence.
Her skin crawled. “Find anything?”
“Eighty percent of women cheat.” He looked at his fingers, wiped them on her shirt.
“And one hundred percent of men.” She jerked her shorts up.
He glared. “You’re cheating. Why else would you ignore my Kingsnake?” His voice softened like it always did after his fists worked her. “I know this is tough on us, but when it takes off, we’ll go anywhere you want.”
Anywhere? How about backward ten years? She wanted to warn her younger self the marriage would be a disaster. In the house they’d fled a week earlier, the living room had been lined with wedding pictures, trophies from the life they were supposed to have lived. A happy, beautiful couple, certain the world was at their feet.
“I can’t do this anymore, Reed. We’ll never get out from under this.”
He grinned and she weakened. That total confidence was what had caught her ten years ago. “Baby, they don’t even know where we are. Anyway, we’re gonna hit it this time. Make half a mil easy. More than enough to pay up.”
“Pay up? It’s not about payback, not anymore. It’s about you telling them to fuck off. You cheated them.”
Reed had called them out in their own bar. In front of their drinking buddies, for fuck’s sake.
“You were holding a bottle of 60-year old Jamison’s. Daring them to get their money back.” His audacity still stunned her.
“I was drunk. And fuck you, Christi, I can make this work.”
His head had always been full of plans and schemes and he’d always believed – fervently – every idea would make them rich. But mostly his ideas were shit and rarely made enough to even cover rent.
Then this biggest idea, cobbled together from a night of bad booze and bad mafia movies. Borrow $20,000 from off-street bankers…then threaten to hang them out with the media.
“Damnit, Reed, they killed Charlie.”
“That was just to scare us.” He snorted. “Besides, Charlie was a fucking dog.”
“Charlie was my fucking dog and they dragged him behind their car with a chain.”
His anger boiled, bright red flooding his face, and she wanted it. She wanted it to explode and leave handprints on her cheeks, blood on her lips.
I won’t fight back. Not this time. Tonight, if you hit me, it’ll be penance.
She checked her watch.
He’d wanted the 20 big to open a business. After that crashed because having an idea wasn’t anything like executing an idea, Reed had decided to invest the dwindling cash in a buddy’s idea. When that buddy went to jail for making a thirteen-year old slop his knob, the money became their daily nut. But then the Horse stamped its feet and blew its hot breath and Reed had to ride.
“We’ll sell the skag,” he’d said. “Make a shitload, get outta town.”
Trash talk. By the time he’d said that, half the heroin was gone, shrinking and hardening his veins, and the loan officers were whispering at the door. She knew what was coming: an OD, the full debt still on the books, the moneymen coming after her to settle accounts.
Unless I solve the problem first.
“Why you always fucking doubt me?” Reed’s eyes flashed. “You ain’t no smarter than me. That money was a great idea.”
Except for that one little problem.
“They were dirty, Reed. Why’d you go to them?”
“No, no, this ain’t about me going to dirty cops for money.” He chest bumped her. “This is about you cheating.”
“Can you, for cripe’s sake, focus on the money and not your dick?”
“Forget the fucking money, damnit.” His voice rose. “They don’t know where we are.”
“Are you really that stupid? I can’t believe I married you.”
He lashed out, a hard hand across her face. Rocks exploded in her head. His second slap was just as hard. Warm blood flooded her mouth. “Maybe next time I’ll take some teeth.”
“And maybe you won’t.”
Relief flooded Christi.
Reed startled. “What the hell? Who the fuck’re you?”
“Where’s our money?” a cop asked. He bulged in the doorway.
“Get the fuck outta here. I got the TV stations on speed dial and I’ll tell them the story of the fucking year. Cops on the take, stealing from evidence rooms, shaking down drug dealers. Arrests, perp-walks, trials. You gonna be a big star.”
The cop, Christi didn’t know his name, crossed the room in a flash. He slammed Reed to the floor, jammed a knee in his back, cuffed him violently.
“The fuck is this?” Reed said.
“Thought you could cheat us? Guess what? Time to pay the bills.”
“The hell’d you know where I was?”
Jenn strolled in, sexy in her uniform, gun on her hip, her badge flashing.
Christi’s breath sped up and her face flushed. “Didn’t think you were coming.”
Jenn’s eyes twinkled. “Was going to meet you when I got off duty, but…I wanted to see you.”
Reed bucked against the cuffs. “Give it up, Serpico. You ain’t gonna touch me, you don’t want my blood on your hands.”
“I’ll wash my hands in your blood, bitch,” the cop said.
Jenn’s face was serene. “Reed, you poor guy. Christi told us. Well…told me.”
His face was splotched with rage, red circles dancing on his skin like spotlights. “You lousy cunt. You fucking sold me out?”
Christi whispered, “For something we had a long time ago, Reed, something I found again.”
He spit at her. “I knew you were fucking around. Fucking every cop in town. Gonna blow blue?”
Jenn gently kissed Christi’s cheek. “I’ll take personal time the rest of my shift, if you want. We can leave tomorrow…grab a few days somewhere else.”
“Yeah,” Christi said. “I want.”