Three days passed. Three lousy days. Everyone was still in shock over Max’s death, and now Silver had been targeted in a drive-by shooting. Assassinated was a better term, but by whom? No one knew. Dennis muttered suspicions of a rival family in the area, but no one could confirm his theories. No one had even made funeral plans yet.
Silver was most definitely dead. The police said they thought the shooting was a gang thing, and she was found with drugs and money on her person. Rehab had evidently done nothing to reform her ways. When Max had died, everyone had plenty to say, given no one liked the man. Most of the family was at odds with Silver, but this death was different. This death made everyone all targets.
Rachel didn’t like the idea. Bullets spraying an open graveyard. Any one of them could have been hit. Lolly had been terrified. Poor thing refused to come out of her room. She didn’t want to leave the safety of the mansion. Rachel didn’t exactly blame her. She had called off work to stay home with her daughter for a few days, checking in every couple hours via email, phone, and QikChat. Hope was the only one oblivious to the gloom that had settled like a thick fog over the household.
Shark was still staying out at odd hours. In fact, he hadn’t been living in the mansion for months, but he had come over almost every day mostly to sit with his dad on the back porch and talk. About what? Rachel didn’t know. Dennis had been cool and distant, still baffled and confused about his wife’s death, a wife who hated him, and a wife whom he hated in return, or at least strongly disliked. Rachel had a hard time imagining Dennis hating anyone.
Bill had changed up his normal routines to get to work, mentioning his discomfort with the thought of drive-by shootings in Twinbrook. Rachel suspected his own days of buying drugs added additional discomfort. He hadn’t even touched a cigarette in three days. Bill had held his daughter the previous night, kissed her on the forehead, and Rachel could have sworn she heard him say, “Damn, I’m lucky I didn’t get shot.”
Marigold had the opposite reaction, hitting the whiskey hard, and early in the day typically. Two deaths in a short period of time was a load to process. Rachel suspected there was more to Max’s death than he fell and hit his head on the fireplace, but she didn’t want to pry. Only Marigold and Dennis had been home at the time, and Rachel had a few scary thoughts, but they were fleeting. No one liked Max. They were better off without him.
They were better off without Silver too, but no one wanted to say it. Somehow Rachel wondered if that was because the woman was still Shark and Lolly’s mother, even though the kids were adults now. Or perhaps it was because everyone knew how Silver treated Dennis and still didn’t want to pry or appear to cheerful at the woman’s demise. Three days passed in the mansion in relative silence. Even the maids seemed like church mice with the way they moved throughout the abysmal tomb-like estate. Someone could hear a pin drop, and Rachel finally understand that phrase.
On the morning of the fourth day, something unexpected happened. At five-thirty-eight in the morning, the doorbell rang. Rachel had been putting Hope to bed for the third time. The girl had been crying again keeping Rachel and Bill on an up-down-up schedule until Bill brought his singing fish, Phil into the nursery and their daughter conked out. Rachel shook her head, unable to understand her baby’s strange fascination with fish. Bill looked exhausted, since he had been working, and Rachel felt wide awake. She placed a chaste kiss on his cheek and told him to go soak in the tub before work since he didn’t have time to go back to sleep. The doorbell rang again, and she decided to wander downstairs.
Dennis stood to the left of the double doors, dressed only in his workout sweat pants. Marigold, dressed in her somber black, stood to the right, staring into space as if dazed and confused. Right inside the door stood two of Twinbrook’s men in blue. Rachel suddenly wished she had the sense to put on pants before wandering into the foyer. She yawned and blamed the lack of sleep.
“What’s going on?” she asked softly.
“Who are you, ma’am?” one of the police officers inquired.
Rachel sniffed as her office did work with the local police and fire departments. “I’m Rachel Colt. I’m the mayor of this town. Who are you?”
“Er…Officer Jude Walker, ma’am,” he said, awkwardly.
The other man tipped his hat. “Ma’am, I’m Officer Elliot Kade.”
“We didn’t realize the mayor lived here,” Officer Walker fumbled.
“Forgive him, Mayor Colt, he’s new to the beat,” Officer Kade added, and his partner flushed.
Rachel resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “What do you want at this hour?”
She found the circumstances odd given Dennis had lived in this house much longer than she, and Marigold almost a century, but nonetheless, she decided to use the attention to her advantage and find out what was happening.
“We have an arrest warrant,” Officer Kade spoke up.
“This is ridiculous,” Dennis burst out, speaking up for the first time since Rachel’s appearance. “You can’t arrest her.”
Rachel’s eyes swept instantly to Dennis, a feeling of fear seizing her heart.
“Lawd! I didn’t do anything,” Marigold piped up.
“Ma, be quiet,” Dennis warned.
“Daddy?” Lolly’s voice could be heard from the top of the stairs. She ran down the steps, taking two or three at a time, and slipped next to her father’s side. “Why are the cops here?”
“Loyola, you should go back upstairs,” Dennis suggested.
“Why?” Lolly seemed bewildered. “Why are you here?” she asked the police directly.
“Who is the arrest warrant for?” Rachel inquired, an edge of coolness in her tone as she braced for the worst.
“Marigold Racket,” Officer Walker replied.
Rachel felt guilty as a momentary wave of relief washed over her, that she wouldn’t be dragged out of her home and be forced to leave her daughter, even though she wasn’t sure why she would be arrested. She rubbed her forehead.
“On what charges?”
“Yeah, what charges?” Bill suddenly appeared at her side, having pitter-pattered down the carpeted stairs in relative quiet, dressed only in his bathrobe. “My wife and I need to know.”
His hair was wet so Rachel knew he had showered. He put his arm around his wife, and Rachel felt oddly flattered by his sudden and strange possessiveness.
“For Dad… manslaughter…” Dennis said through gritted teeth.
“What?” Lolly’s face contorted in total shock. “Grandma? Manslaughter?”
“Manslaughter?” Bill echoed.
“I didn’t do anything,” Marigold insisted again.
Only Rachel remained silent.
“Actually, murder…” Officer Kade corrected.
“Murder? Daddy? What’s happening? Why do they think grandma murdered someone?” Lolly said, panicked, grabbing her father’s bare arm and squeezing tightly.
“Murder! Ha! Ma! That’s ridiculous! You have the wrong person…” Bill chortled, and then after a sharp nudge from Rachel in the ribs, he added, “Actually there’s no person… because Dad fell. It was an accident.”
One look at Dennis confirmed her worst fears. Rachel closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to her lips. Oh Lawd, have mercy! She opened her eyes, and made eye contact with her brother-in-law once more.
“Call the lawyers,” she said quietly.
“Lawyers!?” Bill exclaimed. “This is horseshit!” He stepped forward and tried to intervene while the police officers moved to officially arrest his mother.
“It’s okay,” Marigold said, waving her middle son back.
Rachel grabbed Bill’s arm.
“Marigold Racket, you are under arrest for the murder of Maxwell Racket,” Officer Kade took the old woman’s arm.
“…You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…”
“Ma, we’ll fix this,” Dennis insisted.
“Yeah,” Bill nodded in agreement.
“Grandma,” Lolly wailed.
“Lolly, go back upstairs and call the family lawyers,” Dennis said to his daughter.
“No, no,” she shook her head, refusing to budge as tears fell down her face.
“…you have the right to an attorney,” Officer Kade continued reading the rights as Officer Walker pulled the handcuffs from his belt.
“Ahhh… do you have to cuff her?” Bill asked. “Can’t you see she’s an old woman and her hands are fragile and frail and shit? I mean, she’s recovering from the damn loss of her husband and all, and then she was shot at a few days ago too and look at her hands and shit. They’re all bruised and cut up from the fall she took.”
“Bill,” Rachel snipped.
“It’s okay,” Marigold spoke up. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
She was almost in a daze, saying her words in sing-song.
“Ma, don’t say anything,” Dennis warned.
“Yeah don’t,” Bill grunted. “And we’ll sue the pants off these officers, Ma… don’t worry… in fact, we’ll sue the pants off the entire police department.”
Rachel nearly flushed at the thought.
Marigold walked out with the police officers, cuffed in front, almost dignified as her face was filled with inexplicable sadness. She stopped talking at her son’s request, much to everyone’s surprise. The doors to the mansion swung closed behind them, Officer Walker offering a sympathetic last look to the family.
No one could believe the police would be arresting an old woman for the death of one of the most hated men in Twinbrook. Rachel was the mayor and she hadn’t heard any rumblings about an arrest, or that Max’s death was even being investigated. Someone else had to be pulling the strings. Rachel stretched her brain trying to think of who had a grudge against the Rackets. Who didn’t? she thought. But the question was who had a grudge against Marigold Racket?
Rachel was aware that the woman had made her fair share of bad choices in her day. She had even been the madam of Shady’s for awhile, and Rachel suspected the Marigold wasn’t the most well-liked woman. However, she had memory issues for nearly a decade, much of which was owed to repeated trauma at the hand of her abusive and sadistic husband. She knew in her heart of hearts Marigold had something to do with her husband’s death, but if anything, they could argue self-defense. The bastard probably attacked her first.
Dennis sent the tearful Lolly upstairs, and called the family lawyers. Rachel called her office and the chief of police. Bill called the police department switchboard directly, using some choice words and colorful language. Rachel shook her head, and moved to the dining room away from her ranting husband. Just like him to complicate things. She learned the police department put together the arrest warrant around an hour ago, and someone from the state government called and requested the arrest be moved up to early this morning instead of waiting until eight a.m.
Rachel called her contacts in New Simoleans, and poked around, trying to figure out who this mysterious person in the capitol was and why they wanted to arrest the wife of the deceased man. After nearly half a day of the run-around, she was desperate enough to call her state police department contact directly. He dodged her questions, saying the whole thing was out of his hands, but finally explained the case had gone “federal” before hanging up.
Rachel was stunned. A federal case against Marigold Racket? That seemed out of the feds normal jurisdiction or interest. She rubbed her forehead, exhausted. Bill came in bringing her a glass of water, and cursing under his breath about the idiocy of the police.
“The damn sons-of-bitches want to file a harrassment claim against me? A harassment claim? Can you believe that? Can the police even do that?” he threw his hands in the air.
Rachel took the aspirin he was offering, and a sip of water. The switchboard operator was probably blowing steam, she figured, but Bill was being exceedingly obnoxious.
“Do you think Ma will get bail?” he asked.
“Probably not for a murder case,” Rachel said. “You’d have to ask…”
“I’m not calling again,” Bill raised his voice. “They’ve had enough of me and frankly I’m sick of ’em. The way this station runs itself is piss poor, and I’ll be damned if I have to talk to one more shitty incompetent person there. Who the hell do they think they are? Taking on the Rackets?”
This was so much bigger than what they were seeing, Rachel knew it, but she didn’t know how to explain it.
“Do you think you could use some of that pent-up energy to play with our daughter?” she asked, offering a weak smile.
“Sure,” Bill said. “It’s better than waiting around and doing nothing.”
At ten after five in the evening, Rachel, Dennis, and Bill gathered in the living room. None of them had even bothered getting dressed for the day. The sun was nearly down, and Rachel felt odd sitting in just her nightgown.
Sinbad had arrived to take the weepy Lolly and cherub-sweet little Hope out for pizza and colas. Rachel had tried to slip him a fifty, but Sinbad shook his head and said he had it. She had closed her eyes and nodded graciously. She knew he hadn’t been working since he was back in Twinbrook, and she wasn’t even sure where he was staying, though Lolly had mentioned something about him staying with his old roommate in passing. Rachel was surprised because the Goode boy had eloped with the Castor woman and they had kids together. Beverly had even reverted to her maiden name, Pitts, and their daughter, Apple and infant son, Oranje, frequented the same day care Rachel and Bill utilized for Hope. Rachel didn’t think Sinbad was on the best of terms with Goodwin given the man broke up a marriage and created quite a stir in Twinbrook.
The two Racket men stared hard at one another, and Rachel couldn’t make eye contact with either. She finally took Bill’s hand out of a sense of forced obligation.
“The Feds have been making a case,” she said.
“I know,” Dennis sighed heavily, leaning forward as he rubbed his face.
“You do?” Rachel said, surprised.
“Wait… what?” Bill frowned. “Feds? Whad’da they want with Ma?”
“I’ve been helping them,” Rachel said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“You have?” Bill dropped her hand and jerked his full attention to her.
“Me too,” Dennis added.
“You… have?” Bill repeated.
“Really?” Rachel blinked rapidly.
“Yes, I was helping them build a case against Russ,” Dennis explained.
“Wait… Cousin Russ?” Bill was so lost.
“I was helping them build a case against Max,” Rachel added.
“I thought so,” Dennis said.
“I was working with the state police, and apparently they were reporting to the SNIT.”
“I was approached and offered a deal… limited sentence to turn tail on the boss.”
“Russ has been running things for sometime. After I did a lot of research, I realized Max was only a mid-level grunt at most. He had lost most of his authority over the years. It took me until my initial meeting in Roaring Heights to piece together that Russ was really the one running the show, but the state cops wanted Max first.”
“Dad has done some horrible shit over the years. I’m surprised he hadn’t been caught before now.”
“But you’re still in… aren’t you? I mean, or is it just a cover?”
“Hey!” Bill whistled and threw up his hands. “Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on? Rachel?” he looked at his wife in total shock. “You were building a case against Dad?”
“Yes,” she admitted. “And once I knew it was really Russ, I planned to come back and help them build a case against him, but Max stabbed me first.”
“That bastard,” Bill balled his fists.
“I couldn’t get home.”
“I thought it was a mugging.”
“Well, you thought wrong,” Dennis piped up, aggressively, and Rachel could tell he was fiercely annoyed with his older brother. “Who were you working with, Rachel? Did you have a contact with the Agency too, or was it just state and then got bumped up?”
She hesitated, unsure of how much she should let on. “Bumped. How close were the Feds with Russ?” she deflected.
“Close,” he replied. “They got to his number two.”
“And Marigold was formerly Max’s number two,” Rachel sank back on the couch, putting two and two together, feeling the lump in her stomach grow exponentially.
“Does that mean?” Bill started, but trailed off.
A look of horror crossed Dennis’ face and Rachel’s simultaneously.
“He’s making his move,” she gulped.
“…and he’s eliminating all of Max’s former associates…” Dennis said what Rachel couldn’t.
“…which means…” Rachel’s eyes widened.
“He might make a connection to you,” Bill grabbed Rachel’s hand in a panic.
“I don’t think so,” Dennis countered. “Rachel is still very new to this game. She only offered to draft a will for him.”
Rachel frowned. “How did you know?”
“I have sources,” he said.
So do I. Rachel knew Dennis had most likely been gathering intel while slowly severing ties and purposely moving backward on the command chain, probably to remove himself from harm’s way and further incrimination.
“Everyone thinks you both went to Florsimdia to look at colleges with Lolly and visit your family, Rachel,” Dennis continued, and seeing his sister-in-law’s confused look, he added, “It was for your protection.”
“I can’t believe this!” Bill exclaimed, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
Rachel leaned into the seat, feeling an odd sense of relief. Dennis was looking out for her. She mouthed a thank you and his silent nod affirmed he saw it.
“This is just incredible. Damn incredible!” Bill said. “My wife and brother taking on the entire Racket family business and trying to take it down. Shit! I had no clue. Literally no clue. I mean, Rach, baby, you’re brave as hell hounds.”
Rachel gave him a weird look. That was the closest thing to a Bill compliment. She’d take it.
“He must have powerful connections, Russ. He must’ve been nervous. Maybe he heard rumblings of what you were doing,” Rachel directed at Dennis.
“Yes, I think that’s why he had Marigold arrested,” Dennis affirmed.
“But Ma is just a widow!” Bill protested.
Rachel didn’t know whether to be irked by her husband’s complete stupidity or relieved that the man was so naive.
“I think I know what you’re not willing to admit aloud,” Rachel said quietly.
Sadness filled Dennis’ eyes. “Max was a horrible man. We can all admit it.”
“He wasn’t a man. He was a monster,” she shuddered, and Bill put his arm around her.
“Honey, he’s gone now. You’re safe,” he said.
“Evidently not. We have a new enemy.”
“We can leave Twinbrook.”
“I’m the mayor. We have a kid…” she stopped and glanced down at her belly. I’m about to have another, she thought sadly.
“He won’t come after you.”
“Who’s to say he won’t?”
“I do!” Dennis said, standing up forcefully. “I’ll admit to killing Dad.”
“What the hell?” Bill shrieked. “Have you lost your damn mind?”
“Yeah, Dennis… you can’t do that,” Rachel said worriedly.
“I need to,” Dennis said seriously.
“You’ve got shit for brains, bro,” Bill yelled.
“No, I’m using my brain, bro,” Dennis said, a hard edge to his tone. “It’s the only way to get Ma out of jail. She has blood on her hands and between that and Russ’ connections, she’ll probably stay in prison. It’s the only way to protect this family.”
“Dennis, think about what you’re saying.”
“Yeah, brother, what the hell? That’s probably what Russ wants and you didn’t kill Dad.”
“Yeah, but Ma did.”
“But at least your mother can claim self-defense or plead insane. Dennis, if you do this, you’ll go for life.”
“No, you don’t know. And what about Shark and Lolly? They’ll never look at you the same way again. They just lost their grandfather and mother and now they’ll lose you? You can’t do this to them,” Rachel wailed.
She didn’t add – you can’t do this to me.
“Yeah, Dennis, think,” Bill said. “We can get really good lawyers for Ma and she’ll probably get out quickly. You… we can’t save you.”
No we can’t! Rachel wanted to cry.
“I need to do this,” Dennis said as if he had already decided.
“No,” Bill protested.
Rachel’s heart sank to the feet, and possibly through the floor. She didn’t want to say anything for fear of hurting Bill, but she didn’t want Dennis to go to prison, even more than she didn’t want Marigold to sit in prison, even if she was guilty of the crime.
“Think about it, first, please?” she pleaded. “Please? Overnight at least? Besides, we need to figure out what we’re going to do about Russ. Especially if you go to…”
“…jail…” Bill finished for her.
“Exactly,” she said, trying to change the subject. “If Russ really is trying to eliminate all traces of Max’s old company, who would he target next if he’s already got Marigold… and…”
No one wanted to add the possibility that the evil cousin had also taken out Silver. Rachel wouldn’t be surprised. It would be just one more way to get to Dennis. She shivered at the thought.
“Probably Lucy,” Bill surmised. “Isn’t she still Dad’s…like… number two? Like since Ma stopped working for the organization and shit?”
“Lucy Ferne?” Rachel nodded. “Yeah that makes sense. And probably anyone she’s associated with… which would be…”
Fear seized her heart as she realized what she was about to say. Her eyes jolted to Dennis’ and she saw his face go paler than the full moon.
“Shark!” they said in unison.
“Where is he tonight?” Bill asked.
Dennis was already out the door, not even bothering to pull a shirt over his head or shoes on his feet. Bill looked at Rachel in bewilderment as they heard Dennis’ sports car roar to life in the driveway.
“He said he had a meeting with Russ,” Rachel could barely say the words.
“Then that means…” Bill trailed off.