“I know,” she said. “You’re here to take me home.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m comin’, I’m comin’,” the voice said. “Hold your horses, huh?”
The door of the brownstone opened to reveal a tall, chubby-cheeked Italian-American in his mid-fifties. He wore a fashionable check shirt, a cable-knit cardigan, khakis, and carpet slippers. He peered up and down the slushy, twilit street to see who had rung his doorbell, then stepped gingerly out onto the stoop for a better look, his jaws working mechanically at an enormous wad of Juicy Fruit gum. He made an impatient noise and squatted down to retrieve the Italian flag that someone had knocked into the bushes next to the stoop. He brushed the dusting of snow off it, reinserted the dowel rod on which it hung into its socket by the door, and turned and walked back inside. He closed the door behind him and walked back down the hall, toward his warm kitchen.
Heath punched him in the nose as he walked through the kitchen door, a short warning jab that squirted blood onto his sweater. The wad of gum flew out of his mouth and landed on the floor.
“Ow!” the man yelped. “What the fuck, Heath?”
“Hi, Dominic,” Heath said calmly. He tossed the fence a folded bandanna. Dominic caught it and pressed it to his nose.
“It’s not broken, it just hurts,” Heath said. “I am a professional.” He gestured at the bandanna. “You can keep the handkerchief.”
“Thanks,” Dominic said sulkily.
“You’re welcome,” Heath said politely. He opened Dominic’s refrigerator and got out the Brita pitcher, then got a glass out of Dominic’s cupboard and filled it from the pitcher. “I decided it would be therapeutic for me to express how I feel about being jerked around by you,” he said. “It’s okay, though. I took out most of my irritation on Carroll Carver already.” He took a sip of water. “I beat him to death with a set of trench knucks three days ago.”
“You made your point,” Dominic said, reflexively taking a step backwards. He held up his free hand and lowered his head in submission. “You’re scary. I’m scared of you. Now what?”
“Where’s Lisa?” Heath said.
“Upstairs, in the guest bedroom” the fence said, his voice muffled by the handkerchief. He sat down at the kitchen table and glumly examined the handkerchief’s contents. “Apparently she calls herself ‘Ronnie’ now.”
“I heard,” Heath said. He downed his water. “When had you planned to tell me you knew where she was?”
Dominic spread his hands in supplication. All the fight had gone out of him. “I’m a criminal, Heath, not a monster,” he said wearily. “I didn’t know where she was. She had my number and she called me from the bus station two days ago. She didn’t want to go home to her dad yet. I didn’t know she’d ended up with Danny Giles, or I’d have gone up and gotten her myself.” He wiped the blood from his lips. “You kill him too?” he asked worriedly.
“I don’t know any Danny Giles,” Heath said innocently. “I did hear there was a house fire at a pimp’s place up in Rochester last week. Did the guy die?”
Dominic slumped his shoulders. He looked like a beaten man. “She’s upstairs,” he said, pointing back at the hallway. “Take her and go.” He ran his hand through his thick black hair. “Please don’t kill me, okay?” he said worriedly. “I didn’t know what you were, either. I thought you used to be a P.I. or something. I didn’t know how you knew Daryl, and I definitely didn’t know how you knew Colin. I’m afraid of him, too; I didn’t know you were like him.”
Heath put his glass in the sink and nodded curtly at Dominic. He walked out of the kitchen, through the front hall, and up the stairs. He hurried to the end of the upstairs hall, his boots making no sound on the carpet. He knocked on the door. “Lisa?” he said.
The door opened a crack. “Heath?” she said nervously. Her voice was different than he remembered; it was hoarse, and lower.
Heath sighed. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
She opened the door without looking at him. Her hair was pulled back, and she wasn’t wearing makeup; her freshly-laundered jeans were black, and the oversized black hoodie she wore looked like some kind of statement piece, although Heath wasn’t sure precisely what the statement it made was. “I know,” she said. “You’re here to take me home.”
“Yeah,” Heath said.
She turned and beckoned him over her shoulder. “Come on in.”
Heath followed her into the small, wood-paneled bedroom. There was a backpack sitting on the Amish quilt on the bed, which had recently been made. The armchair in the corner and a narrow bookshelf containing a selection of Robert Ludlum and John le Carre novels were the only furniture in the room.
“Your dad worries about you,” he said. “He loves you.”
“I know,” she said quietly, shouldering the backpack. She looked up at Heath. “Did Carroll know where I was?”
“You don’t need to worry about Carroll anymore,” Heath said.
Lisa closed her eyes and turned her face away. “You killed him,” she said flatly. It was hard to know how she felt about it.
Heath inclined his head toward the door. “Come on,” he said. “Your dad’s waiting.”
He walked out of the room. After a minute, Lisa followed.
I hope you have enjoyed reading The God of Death and Second Chances as much as I have enjoyed writing it (and as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you). I will revise it over the next few months; it will ultimately be released in book form.
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Congrats on finishing a powerful story.
I didn't want this to end. It was among the most original, consistently surprising and exciting works of fiction I've read in the past, maybe, 3 or 4 years.