Book: Outside The Ropes

Previous: 26: Sorry
Next: 28: Trapped

I REREAD THE LETTER AND FLIPPED IT over, but it was blank. I looked around the bed and floor; there had to be more, but there wasn’t.

I grabbed my phone, heart in my throat when I saw the red icon’s notifying me of a missed call and message. But the screen turned black at my touch as it drained of power, and I didn’t have a charger.

Running into the room Dexter and Leona were staying in, I knocked briefly then opened the door.

“Do you have your phone charger?” I asked quickly, looking at the couple lying on the bed watching TV.

Dexter raised one arm, pointing to a black duffle bag. “In the front zipper there.”

I knelt by the bag, unzipping it. “Your brother left.”

“I know. He left us some money though. We can get dinner if you’re hungry,” Dexter spoke matter-of-fact.

My head whipped to him, charger abandoned. “You know? Where did he go?”

He sat up in bed, dropping his arm from Leona as he watched me. “He had to go back to B-more, he didn’t tell you?” He asked carefully.

I sucked in a breath, fighting the choking constriction of my muscles. “When did he tell you?”

He shifted his eyes then got out of bed to come over to the bag. He pulled the charger out and handed it to me with an uneasy smile.

“He told me before we left. He was only dropping us off. He’s coming back Thursday.”

I was sinking. Gage was keeping too much from me and I didn’t understand why. Moreover, I didn’t like it. He could tell Dexter, the boy he was risking his life for, why not me?

Dexter put a hand on my shoulder and I stood up, knocking it off.

“It’s alright. He’s going to be back in less than a week. In the meantime we can hang out here. Look.” Dexter popped up and went to the nightstand and picked up his wallet. He pulled out a card and extended it towards me. “He left us a credit card to get whatever we want.”

I stared at him. Was he serious right now?

Leona had been watching our exchange. She sat up on the bed with a large smile. “We can go shopping tomorrow Rea and get some clothes. It will be fun.”

“Don’t make me fuckin’ slap you.” I said, incredulous.

“What?” She snapped, straightening up in bed.

“Whoa.” Dexter exclaimed at the same time, dragging me out of the room by my arm.

I jerked free when he closed the door and brought my hand to my head, trying to grasp at any sane thought.

“Rea, calm down.” Dexter stood watching me.

“Calm down? What the hell is he doing? I thought he only had to fight this Friday and then everything would be done. But he wasn’t being honest. I feel like I was just kidnapped.” I paused to take a few breaths, but only succeeded in feeding the flames of my anger. “And you two expect me to be happy that we have money to spend? I thought that was the problem to begin with, not enough money to pay back. Where is this money coming from? And what is your brother doing now? What type of--”

“Rea stop.” Dexter grabbed my shoulders and shook me slightly.

I couldn’t stand to look at his bruised face, but I did. “Tell. Me. Everything. Now,” I said between clenched teeth.

He dropped my shoulders and nodded. “I don’t know that much. Gage had to go back to deal with Silas and Rusnak.” He shrugged his shoulders. “But I don’t know what that means. As for the money... Rea, they owe over a hundred grand. What we spend isn’t touching that. And he didn’t kidnap any of us. Don’t you get it? He wants to keep us away from it all. It’s to protect us.”

I pulled my hair back with frustration, wishing for a hair band to secure it. Even my hair on my shoulders pissed me off.

“They owe? No Dexter, you owe but you’re letting your brother go clean up your mess and you don’t even care--”

“I do care.” He cut me off, anger clear in his bruised face. “That’s my brother Rea. I care. But I know him and I know he knows what he’s doing. He’s going to be alright.”

The way Dexter said the last part, a bit shaky, belied the confidence he was trying to show. And it sucked the anger out of me. I sat on the couch, hollow.

Dexter moved to sit next to me. “You’ll see. It’s all going to be alright. He’ll be back soon, only a few days.”

I could tell he was still trying to convince himself, he had no chance of convincing me that it would be okay. The phone charger in my hand reminded me of my missed call and dead phone. Leaving Dexter on the couch, I went back to my room and plugged it in.

I kept tapping on the screen, impatient as I tried to get it to light up. When it finally did, I froze. My missed call was from Nan. An all-new kind of fear started sliding down my spine. Before my mind went crazy with questions I pressed the voicemail button and listened. Her voice was a whisper.

“Regan, please be okay. I-- Damien’s fucking losing it, talking all kinds of crazy. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I hope you’re okay. Don’t call me back, I’ll call when I can.”

My fingers shook over my screen. I couldn’t call her back, she had said before Damien would be pissed to know we were talking. Even though she was calling because she was worried about me, that message made me worry about her.

I called Gage, hoping for more information, but it went straight to voice mail. I was a breath away from freaking out. My muscles were urging me to throw my phone, but I knew I needed it. Especially since all my money was left back at my house. I was stuck.

Punching the pillows and bed didn’t help; neither did the push-ups I hammered out. The night had already settled on the city, but it was still bright, lit up. I wanted out of the room, but that could wait till morning. Out of options, I put my headphones on and let music drown out my emotions enough for me to sleep.

***

They spent the weekend in the hotel room. Dexter and Leona were self-conscious of their bruises, so mostly ordered food up. And I was out as often as I could, doing nothing but walking around. I broke and used Gage’s card to buy essentials like underwear, toothbrush, and a change of clothes, but little else. I barely even ate. And Gage didn’t call me until Monday.

I was in my room, doing sit-ups in bed just for something to do, when Dexter knocked.

“Rea, you decent?” He called through the door.

I sat up, “Yeah, come in.”

His bright grin looked better today; the purple shadows of bruising were blending into a yellow and brown. But his smile still made me want to punch him.

“She’s been good. Out touring the city.” He was talking into his phone and I hopped off the bed. “Alright, Alright, here she is.” He extended it to me.

I took it and paused, swallowing my anxiety. “Hello?”

“You like the city?” Gage’s voice sounded casual and smooth.

My heart dropped, and I had to turn away from Dexter to hide the emotion hearing his voice had caused. He sounded fine and alive. And I let the relief wash over me for a second. The anger quickly followed.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You left without saying anything!” I paused as I heard his rumble of a laugh. “What the hell is wrong with you? This isn’t funny.”

“Sorry,” he swallowed his laughter, but his voice still held amusement. “I missed that fire of yours. I like hearing it. I’ll be there soon and when it’s all done I can explain everything. I promise.”

I shook my head, speechless. I didn’t believe him.

“Say something,” he requested softly.

“Why should I? You’re not going to tell me anything. You’re going to keep making decisions for me. I want this to be over.” I was desolate; nothing was in my control.

“I know and I’m doing what I can. I have to go, but I want you to know one thing,” His voice dropped as he said, “I love you.” Before I could respond he hung up.

With the phone still pressed to my ear, I took a few breaths, smoothing my face before turning back around to Dexter.

“What did he say? Is everything alright?” he asked as he took his phone back.

“He didn’t say anything. He never does. Did he tell you anything?”

“Not really.” Dexter frowned as he looked at me. “Come here Rea. I really am sorry about everything. Sorry you are involved in all this now.” He attempted to pull me into one of his hugs.

Really, I kind of wanted one right now. I felt all alone and out of control, but I didn’t want one from him. “Leave me alone.” I threw myself back in the bed as Dexter left the room.

***

My phone ringing woke me up from my nap. I seemed to be taking more and more of those as the week went by.

Nan’s name lit up the screen and I quickly answered.

“Regan? Oh God, I’m glad you answered. Are you okay?” Her voice was nasally, but she wasn’t whispering.

“Yeah, are you?” I replied.

“Me? Yeah, I’m good.” She dismissed the question. “What happened last week? He came back all kinds of crazy. Talking ‘bout you and what he would do next time he saw you, how you wouldn’t be so lucky. Girl, tell me you didn’t do something crazy?

My mouth went dry, and it was hard to form the words. “I didn’t do anything. He’s insane.” I didn’t want to give Nan the story; if she didn’t know it, she didn’t need to be involved.

“I know.” Her voice came out quiet, serious. “He is insane and only getting worst. That’s why I called, to warn you. He thinks he has some sort of power now, more than before. He thinks he’s above the law and can’t get in trouble for shit.” She sighed heavily. “I’m leaving. I talked to my grams, she said I can move in with her.”

“In Florida?” I asked, a small bubble of hope forming for her.

“Yeah.” I could hear her voice lighten with the same hope. “Remember when we use to talk about living at the beach? You should come too. Get out of this city and start over.”

I nodded, I remembered our talks. I also remember having this discussion several times with no follow through. I wasn’t putting much trust in her words this time. “Maybe I will. When you get there, give me a call. When will you go?”

“As soon as I can. Things are getting bad, fast.”

The fear in her voice made me speak. “I’m in New York. You could come here if you need to get out now. It’s only temporary, but you’ll be safe.” I wouldn’t give her the details, just in case, but I could meet her at the train station.

“Nah, Chick. I’ve got enough money for one bus ticket to Florida. That’s what I’ll use it for. I’m glad you’re out of this city though.” She laughed briefly, “I hope you will come, we could get those boob jobs we talked about, become playboy models.”

I was surprised I laughed; it felt like forever since I smiled. “That was our California dream, and you wanted the boob job, not me. I’ve got enough.”

“That’s right, lucky Bi--” Her voice broke off. “Crap, gotta go.” And she hung up.

I said a silent prayer for her, hoping she would be okay and make it to her grandmothers. If she actually does it then maybe I would go too, after I saw this craziness out. I was planning to stay until the fight on Friday, two days away, and then make my move.

***

Nan’s name flashed on my screen. The sun just began to lighten the night sky. I reached for the phone on the bedside table and blinked away my sleep, a slow fear creeping through me.

“Hello,” my voice cracked as I answered.

“Regan?” James’ voice surprised me. “Nan- she, Oh God, please. She—He almost killed her.” He was sobbing, taking gulps of breaths in-between words.

“What- Calm down James. What’s happened?” My heart stopped as I waited for him to suck down his hysteria.

When he spoke his voice was small and squeaky. “I came back to the apartment and – there was so much blood. Nan was in the middle of it all. I think he thought she was dead, but she’s not. Not yet. Fuck, she better live.”

I was shaking. “Where is she now?”

“At Johns Hopkins, in surgery. Regan, I don’t know if she’s going to make it.”

I hung up the phone and looked up the train schedule. I had to get to my friend.

Previous: 26: Sorry
Next: 28: Trapped