Author Note: While there are no pictures in this chapter, there is references to overdose, an outburst of violence, racist, sexist, and crude comments, and hints of sexual exploitation that doesn’t actually take place. If these are triggers for you, please exercise discretion in reading.
True to his word, Max brought Rachel in on the loop. She somehow barely managed to convince the number two, Lucy Ferne, to turn on her boss and back Max’s play. Rachel watched the interactions between Max and Lucy. He was his usual, firm and crass self, but with Lucy, he adopted nearly a caring attitude in his own way beneath the sarcasm and profanity. She called him “old man,” and he called her “little one,” much to her disdain. Lucy had knocked Max to the floor, put her boot on his chest, and cursed him, saying it was a wonder the Reaper hadn’t taken his soul yet. Max chuckled and said the Reaper wasn’t interested in a man who had sold his soul to the devil. Lucy’s face relaxed and she helped him off the floor.
Rachel learned Max had brought Lucy into the organization when she was barely legal, and had groomed her personally to be his number two. When Max was ousted, Lucy apparently had come to his defense, but Russ had told her if she wanted to live, she’d back his play. Lucy had went along with it. Rachel had expected Max to kill her for something like that, but instead he spared her life. Two men sparing the same woman? Why? Rachel puzzled.
From her interactions with Lucy, Rachel learned quickly the woman didn’t want money and she wasn’t going to be anyone’s sex slave. She ruled out extortionist and lover. Lucy craved power. In the three days, Rachel had toured the operations, the woman barked orders like nobody’s business and she had no issues shoving around any of her colleagues as they were beneath her, or so she treated them.
She was a ruthless sparring partner. She had insisted if she was working with Rachel, she wanted to fight her first and know what she was made of – and of course, Rachel agreed to keep her cover. By the end of the evening, she was covered in cuts and bruises. The amazing thing was Lucy never played dirty. She won by sheer talent alone. Rachel was pretty sure she had at least one cracked rib, and it was hard hiding the pain from Lolly, but the teenager did keep her headphones on for most of the time in the room and her head in her homework.
Max promised to bump Lucy to his right hand spot, and gave her full authority upon his passing. He also promised she could take out Russ any way she liked. Lucy grinned when she heard that, mostly because she’d been wanting to start her own operation, and she liked the sound of a coup, especially if that meant assassinating Russ.
“I never liked the way he looked at me anyhow,” she scoffed.
It was Lucy who, in turn, convinced Russ’ current accountant to set up multiple off-shore accounts and then a dozen or so little accounts complete with identities – birth certificates, social security numbers, education and work history, and even families. He was good. A little too good, Rachel thought, feeling a bit nervous, but she didn’t have a choice.
The money wouldn’t officially be transferred until she announced her candidacy in Simuary. Until then, everything was up in the air, but he state police contacts assured her to sit tight and this would all be over soon.
That was easier said than done. Rachel found herself feeling paranoid at the office, looking over her shoulder frequently throughout the day. She tried to proceed with business as normal, but just in case, she had her assistant double check to make sure her phone lines weren’t tapped and her emails weren’t being monitored.
Rachel had one burner phone to contact members of the Racket organization and then once she made a call or received a call, the phone was trashed, and she got a new one. No wonder the Rackets had never been caught. She was beginning to wonder how on earth Max had been caught the first time. She eventually surmised his Achilles heel was whoever happened to be his lover at the time.
Poor Penney went along with the plans, knowing she was in it for the long haul whether she liked it. She managed to convince her fiance for a long engagement to keep up the pretenses, hoping she’d be out from Max’s thumb in a year. The woman continued to meet with Max, pretending with him too. Rachel wondered how the woman did it. She must be a world champion actress.
Rachel had dead drops to feed and receive information to and from the state police. Every location changed. Twinbrook wasn’t a big city so if she needed to meet with her handler, she was forced to drive to New Simoleans. She considered bringing Bill or Dennis in on her plans so she wouldn’t be alone, but the former was too clumsy and the latter, unfortunately, couldn’t be trusted, according to the police. Rachel thought differently.
She observed Dennis with his mom. She watched how he sweetly carried the woman into bed on the nights when she couldn’t remember where she was. Max was spending six nights a week at the club, either with Penney or another one of the girls. Most nights, he didn’t come home until three or four in the morning. It was Dennis who drove Marigold to appointments. It was Dennis who helped his mom with her dentures. It was Dennis who cooked soft foods for his mother because she couldn’t chew much anymore.
She observed Dennis with his kids. He would lecture Shark, but he’d never raise his voice. She knew Dennis was disappointed Shark had joined the family organization, but he didn’t try to stop him. He knew Shark needed to make his own decisions and create his own path. He would help Lolly with her homework since Sinbad was no longer around to assist. He would sit at the table and coach her for hours and never get frustrated even when she threw her pencils or tore her papers. He still said good night to her every evening when she went to bed.
She observed Dennis with his wife. Back in early Simune, he had found Silver face down in the swimming pool. She was inebriated, but shockingly alive. He had her committed to rehab. Rachel didn’t understand the man. Silver treated him like shit, drank too much, took drugs, slept with other men, pranced around without clothes frequently, and was a terrible mother, and still he stayed with her. Rachel wondered what kind of bewitching control the woman had over him. Still, every Wednesday evening, he would call to check in on her, even though she’d hang up on him half the time, and every Sunday, he’d drive to New Simoleans to visit her. Sometimes Lolly would tag along. Shark refused to go. It was probably for the best.
Dennis seemed like such a good guy, working hard to keep the dysfunctional family together. Rachel admired him. He was even good with Hope, getting down on the floor to play with her and carrying her around on his shoulders. Bill’s parenting ranged from obsessive monitoring to benign neglect based on his mood swings. It was nice to see someone stable and normal with her child.
In mid-Simvember, Max arranged for Rachel and Hope to come with him to Roaring Heights to see the Simoridia operations. Lolly begged to come along, and since it was Thanksgiving break, Dennis granted her permission. Rachel managed to get two days off work to accompany Max. Lolly said she’d watch Hope when her grandfather and aunt went to do work. She said she needed the babysitting money.
Max took Rachel on a tour of several warehouses, and she met the accountant for the first time. He was based out of the Simoridia office. The man was a bit mousy, but he was a genius with numbers, Max assured her. She managed to snap photos of several important pages in the books before moving onto the next location. This would come in handy now that she had account numbers. She still needed to figure out a way to tie both Max and Russ to her scheme. Otherwise, her efforts would be for nothing.
On the way back to the hotel, Max insisted they stop at the boardwalk. They strolled along, observing the rides and Max bought hot dogs. Once they finished eating, he somehow convinced her to ride the Ferris wheel with him. Rachel hadn’t been on one since she was a kid.
When they reached the top, the ride jerked to a stop. After a minute, Rachel laughed nervously and asked whether they were going to continue. She surmised that something got jammed. Max lunged toward her, catching her completely off guard and leaned her head, neck and shoulders over the side. She moved to knee him and he threatened to drop her.
“Are you screwin’ with me?” he said through gritted teeth.
“What?” she gasped. “No.”
“Are you screwin’ with me?” he repeated.
“Max! Be reasonable please,” she tried to stay calm.
“Call me Dad,” he jammed a knife into her side. “Don’t’cha worry. Not a vital area. You’ll bleed for a bit and be fine.”
She yelped, and considered screaming, but figured it would do her no good. She’d be tossed off the side and dead. “What do you want?” she hated how shaky her voice sounded.
“Say it,” he demanded.
“Say what?” she breathed heavily.
“Say it. Call me Dad.”
“Did you hear me, bitch?” Max waved the knife in her face. “I want you to call me Dad.”
“I… have… a… Dad…” Rachel spit out between gasps of pain.
“Don’t’cha get cheeky with me, girl,” he grabbed her hair and she yelped. “I am your father today and I won’t let you down if you don’t call me what I wanna hear.”
“What do you want… Dad?” she cringed, relenting as she leaned back against the side.
He slid back into his seat much to her relief and gave an eerie laugh. “Now that we’ve established you’re family…”
She felt disgusted as she winced and rubbed the wound in her side.
“You don’t screw me over, bitch, you hear?” Max repeated. “Or there will be hell to pay.”