|Maureen has a plan|
He could tell something was wrong even before he returned home. Beckett had sent Maureen a text message on his way to the station house, and at that point, she had immediately answered. It was the same with the message he'd sent 20 minutes later. But after those two contacts, he hadn't heard from her at all. Not a word. He considered that maybe she had dozed off on his sofa, but eventually dismissed that thought. She had been much too ill at ease to relax in such a manner. And though it was possible she had just missed hearing the notifications of four incoming messages, or the three calls that went to voicemail, it was highly unlikely. She had access to that iphone every waking minute, going as far as to keep it on her nightstand when she went to sleep. He very much doubted that she had placed it anywhere out of hearing distance, unless on purpose.
When he finally made it back to the house on Maple Avenue, he called out to her as he unlocked the front door, only to have silence answer him back. He walked through the parlor into the kitchen, and noticed a small piece of paper lying on the granite counter top, a fridge magnet next to it. Quickly reading through the note from Helen Burke, his housekeeper, he swore under his breath. The kitchen door to the basement was open, as well as the one to the Red Room, and he knew in that instant, what had transpired.
It was a quarter to midnight when the last movie ended. She wandered out to the lobby, and found herself one of a handful of people still in the theater. The teenage staff was scurrying about, working quickly to close up, and be on their way. Although she was bleary eyed from sitting in the dark, and staring at a lit screen for near seven hours, the closing of the place left her with nowhere else to go. She had seen a pub a few blocks away on her bus trip over, but the idea of walking into the place unescorted, this late on a Saturday night, made her nervous. She was out of options, and determined that going back to her flat was probably the sanest plan. If she were lucky, Ted had tired of waiting for her to return, and had gone back home. Once he figured out how she had snooped in his personal affairs, he probably had no intention of ever seeing her again. The thought made her eyes sting, but this very minute, her focus needed to be on the task of getting safely home.
She pushed through the glass doors of the movie theater, and into the frigid cold. The temperature had dropped several degrees since earlier that evening, and she shivered, both from cold, and the fear of being alone. Walking down to the bus stop, she was careful to stand under the round beam of light thrown from the street lamp. There were only a few cars left in the parking lot, and only a small mix of people exiting from the same doors she had just come from. Most of them never gave her a second glance, except for the two men, both in their late twenties, who came strolling toward her, hands in their pockets, and caps pulled low over their brows. They stood behind her for a few seconds, just watching, until the taller of the two moved forward and spoke to her.
"Give you a lift, sweetheart?"
Maureen shifted from one foot to another, working hard at appearing calm. "Um...no thank you. I'm waiting for my...um...my boyfriend to bring the car around."
His buddy moved closer, and stood on the other side of Maureen, squeezing her between his friend and himself. "Gee...and here we thought you was waiting for the bus. You look real cold. Maybe we can keep you warm until your boyfriend gets here."
Her heart caught in her throat, and she frantically tried to remember any of what Ted had tried to teach her about escaping. Before she could formulate a single thought, a low voice came out of the dark from behind the three of them.
"Is there a problem here, gentlemen?" The light caught the left side of his face, and he looked pissed. Very pissed.
The buddy grabbed her arm, and pulled her closer. "Beat it, pal. We got it covered."
Ted pulled back his jacket, letting the ray of light from the street lamp hit the shield at his waist, and the huge Glock in its shoulder holster. "I disagree." He practically growled the words, and took a step closer to where the three of them stood.
The tall man stepped back, putting his hands in the air in a show of surrender. "We're not looking for any trouble, Officer. Just thought we'd help the lady out."
Beckett stared at the tall guy's friend, watching as he took his hand off Maureen's arm. "Yeah...well, looks like I've got that covered now. " He reached forward, and pulled Maureen next to him, none too gently. "Move along. Party's over."
The pair shuffled away, muttering under their breath. Ted abruptly turned, his hand wrapping her wrist, and pulled her around the corner of the building, to where the Mustang was parked.
"Just get in the damn car, Maureen." Not wanting to face him, she moved toward the back seat, but he quickly stepped in front of her, and motioned to the front. "I don't want to have to talk to the rear view mirror."
She slid into the front seat with a loud "tisk" of annoyance, an act of false bravado on her part. Her nose was running from the cold, and her heart was still beating hard from the scene in front of theater. She tried not to think of what might have happened if he hadn't shown up, and worried about what she'd say now that he had.
Beckett's plan had been to speak calmly and plainly, like a rational human being. But there was something about the tiny red head that got under his skin, and caused his control to falter. She seemed so small sitting there, her body pushed up against the passenger door, skin paler than than the snow swirling outside the car, her eyes round pools of emerald green. He wanted to pull her into his arms and comfort her. Tell her it would be okay. That they'd work it out. But his pride wouldn't allow it. She had run out on him. Just like the other. Without a word of explanation. Without a chance to talk things over. He started the engine, and spoke. "Just what the hell did you think you were doing?"
"I...was waiting for the bus. I would've been fine too, if those two assholes hadn't started hassling me."
"You would've been waiting for that damn bus until tomorrow morning, because the last run is at 10:00 PM, and it's almost 1:00 AM now. Didn't you bother to check the sign at the stop?"
Embarrassed, because she hadn't actually bothered to check, and being as inherently stubborn as he was, she refused to acknowledge the fact that he had probably just saved her sorry ass from God knows what. With her chin stuck out in defiance, she answered. "I didn't think to look. I was too busy... trying to run from my ex-boyfriend...the liar." She thought she saw him flinch, but then, maybe it was wishful thinking. "How did you find me, anyway?"
He grunted, obviously a sign of his dismissal at her subterfuge. "It wasn't all that hard. Followed your footprints in the snow right out the front door, and down the street to the bus stop. They stopped there, so I guessed that you had gotten on the bus. I followed the route, checking in at the only businesses still open along it. The movie theater made the most sense, as it was opened the latest. I showed your photo to the ticket seller, and he said he recalled seeing you, but didn't remember what movie you were seeing. Damned if I was gonna stumble around in the dark trying to find you. I figure you'd have to come out eventually, so I sat in the lobby and waited."
The idea that he might have been there the whole time, made her both uneasy, and pleased, at the same time. "How long were you there?"
"Long enough to be thoroughly aggravated."
They drove in silence, until when, at a stoplight, he turned to her, stone faced and asked, "In what way am I a liar? If anything, I'm guilty only of the sin of omission."
"Omission? Is that what you think that was? Gimme a break! You should have told me you were some kind of freak...before we got involved." This time she was sure she saw a reaction in his poker face, but somehow, it didn't make her feel victorious. Just sad. She wanted him to rail, to swear, to explain about the paintings, to tell her she was special to him. He did none of those things. Instead, he drove on, eyes on the road, his lips a tight line across his face, and a furrow between his brows.
Nothing more was said. He pulled the car up in front of the deli, and putting it park, they sat in strained silence for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality, was only a minute or two. He spoke first, his face masked and cold. "I guess this is good bye then."
She could only nod, her throat too tight to push any words out. She opened the car door, stopped a moment to say something, and then changed her mind. From the car, he watched until she was safely inside the building, and then drove off. She made it all the way to the top of the stairs before the tears came in great, heaving sobs.
And so it went for nearly two weeks. Both of them miserable, distracted, and short tempered.
At the station house, everyone worked at keeping safely out of the Sheriff's way. He snapped at his deputies, made the secretary cry, and fired a guy on the maintenance staff. No one in his work circle felt they knew Beckett well enough to ask what was wrong, and no one was willing to risk speaking to him. He kept the door closed, came and went without a greeting of any kind, and when it was necessary to ask him a question, the answer came in terse mono-syllables.
The housekeeper received a snotty lecture about leaving information such as that on the fridge, and the ensuing argument between them almost cost him her services. But Helen knew him better than anyone in town, was responsible, trustworthy, and loyal, and so he was required to pull in his claws, and apologize for his nasty attitude.
Things were no better across town at Schiller's deli, or the apartment above it. Maureen walked around with constant puffy eyes and a red nose, and had taken to sleeping with Betsy, Basil and an old dress shirt Beckett had left in her bathroom. She had almost called him a dozen times. Thought about sending a text message. Considered a greeting card. But none of these ideas came to any fruition. Hallmark just didn't make a card that expressed one's ambivalent feelings towards a kinky ex-lover. Fact was, Maureen wasn't even sure how she felt about any of what had happened.
She had, in all truth, snooped. Seeing the note on the fridge might have been an accident, but her picking the lock on the door was a conscious decision to invade his privacy. Then, she had left without even talking to him about her issues. Never gave him the opportunity to explain, or deny. And until that moment in the basement, she had always found him to be honest to a fault. Almost blunt in his answers to her questions.
Of course, it was pretty hard to deny what she had seen with her own eyes. It wasn't as if she were ridiculously naive, or hadn't heard of any of that stuff before. Her old room mate in Boston had been into the alternative life style scene, and she had seemed normal enough, except for the fact she claimed to enjoy being spanked. But what wasn't normal, was having naked paintings of your former lovers on display. Paintings that revealed a whole freaky side of yourself. If she was sure of anything, it was that there was no way she was going to become Tied Up, Naked Lady #7, hanging on the wall in that wretched room.
She spent her days going through the motions of her routine with a heavy sense of sadness, and those closest to her noticed the change. Kevin had tried to be supportive, visiting her in the evening, and inviting her to dinner several times over the two weeks. Maureen had confessed early on that she and Beckett were no longer a couple, but gave no information as to why that was. Her brother politely avoiding prying, but she sensed that he was less than heartbroken over the turn of events.
Her long face, and quiet behavior, so different from the norm, was also noticed by the astute Mrs. Schiller. She was the first one to bring up Beckett's name as they restocked the shelves in the small deli, asking about his whereabouts, and commenting how it had been awhile since he'd been in the store.
The last thing she wanted to do was discuss the loss of Ted, but the woman was relentless. After much prodding, she finally explained how they had broken up, leaving out any of the essential parts about the room in the basement.
The old woman nodded her head in sympathy. "You poor dear. That's such a shame. You made a real cute couple. But don't be hard on yourself, sweetie. That man's gonna be hard to pin down. So charming and handsome, that one. Sampled half the women in this town. He's gonna hold out as long as he can, and it's gonna take one hell of a woman to snap him up." She gave the girl a small pat on the back, and went back to her work.
Instead of being consoled by her boss's words, Maureen was insulted. Why didn't the woman think she could be the one to "snap him up"? It was obvious that Ted found her attractive. No doubt there. None at all. Hell, he couldn't seem to keep his hands off her. In addition, she was fun to be with. He said so himself. Smart too. Needing to defend her reputation as a desirable female, she continued the conversation. "It wasn't like that, Mrs. Schiller. I broke it off with him. We just had totally different personalities. I wish it would've worked out, but it didn't."
From behind a stack of fresh produce, the elderly woman nodded, a polite smile of non belief on her face, as she stacked the heads of lettuce in a neat pyramid pile. When she thought more about it, Maureen couldn't say for sure who dumped who. Maybe it was a mutual decision? Or maybe she had taken Ted's "goodbye" the wrong way? What was clear in her mind, was the fact that she had run like a scared rabbit. Just like Boston. Gave up, and went down without a fight.
Ted made her happy, and it was clear she miserable without him. So why couldn't she change her own fate, and Beckett's as well? No reason at all. And amid the the ripe tomatoes, and fresh green beans, Maureen O'Kenny came up with a plan.
It was close to 5:00 PM, and the Sheriff was on his way out. It was another long day, with too much paper work, and too little action to free his mind. He desired only to escape the confines of the station house without the need for communication, so the appearance of his secretary at his door was more than a little annoying.
Hesitantly, the woman stood in the doorway, a yellow slip in her hand. "Sheriff...this just came in over dispatch. It's a B and E with assault."
"I'm on my way out, Grace. Already out of uniform, with plans for the evening. Turn it over to Sykes."
Grace looked nervous, and wrung her hands before continuing. "I think you'll want to take this one yourself, Sir. It's Miss O'Kenney."
Beckett felt his chest constrict. Maureen? Damn it! He grabbed the slip from the woman. "How long ago did this come in, Grace?"
"Two minutes, Sir. I came to find you right away."
He nodded his thanks, and raced out to his patrol car. With sirens blaring, and speeding all the way, his brain would only allow for worst case scenerios. He swore under his breath at the thought that he hadn't changed the locks on her doors like he had planned, that he hadn't pushed her training harder, and that he was to blame for any injuries she had sustained. Thoughts of Marzano and Cassie hit him like a mallet to his head, and he increased his speed, wondering if he should have called for an ambulance to meet him there.
Beckett slammed the car into the curb in front of the old building. All was quiet in the store, and he took the stairs to her apartment two at a time, calling to her as he did so. "Maureen! You up there, babe? Say something, hon!"
|Beckett comes to the rescue...again|
She stood in the kitchen area, leaning against the sink, and looking...well terrific. "Maureen, are you alright?" Overwhelmed with relief that she appeared perfectly fine, it took a second or so for him to realize that so did the apartment. Not a thing in the room was out of order, not a hair on her head was out of place. Realization of what was going on hit him squarely in the face. Incredulously, he could only stare and ask, "You called in a false report?"
Maureen hesitantly shook her head yes, not sure yet as to how he would react.
Blinking, the anger in his blues eyes readily apparent, he ran a hand through his hair, and then pulled her away from the sink. "Damn it, Maureen. What the hell would make you do something this stupid? Do you realize that calling in a false report is against the law? Not to mention how worried I'd be on the way over here? What a shitty, underhanded thing to do!"
Her lower lip trembled, and he almost weakened. But then he saw her stick out her chin, and narrow her eyes, and he pulled up his guard.
"I didn't totally lie, you know." She stuck her hands on her hips to further prove her stand. "Theft and assault did take place here."
"Oh, really? You're gonna have to explain that one, darlin', 'cause from where I'm standing, you appear to be nothing more than a conniving, little brat. One who most decisively broke the law."
He could see her sway a bit, and he thought maybe she was ready for the tears. But instead, she pulled back her shoulders and stuck out her lip in a full pout. Beckett admired the fire in her. There was no doubt she looked incredibly sexy. Deliciously, and wonderfully so. But there was no damn way he was going to let her top him. Not now. Not ever. He crossed his arms, and stared right back at her. "Go ahead. Let's hear it."
The first few words came out in a stutter, but there was no backing down. "You're the thief, Ted Beckett. It was you. You stole my heart, and then you broke it."
It was so not what he was expecting, that for a second, he was at a loss for words. Then, she stuck out her wrists in front of him, all pale, creamy skin, her pulse jumping at the vein.
"That's the way I feel, Beckett. I trusted you with my heart, and you trampled on it. So if you want to arrest me for something that's entirely your fault, then you go right ahead."
She should have thought twice about offering up her wrists, knowing what she did about Beckett's darker side But caught up in her plan to try and "fix" things, she wasn't thinking clearly, and when he smiled at her, she was far too busy congratulating herself to worry.
With his right foot, he kicked the chair away from the table, and grabbing her wrists, pulled her closer. She held her breath, losing herself in his eyes, and waiting for him to kiss her. When, instead, he ran his hands up her arms, and gently pushed her into the chair, she was a bit confused, but certainly not concerned. In fact, it wasn't until he pulled her wrists behind her, and she felt the cold metal, and heard the snap of the lock, that a wedge of anxiety set in. Tugging her arms, she was shocked to find herself snuggly handcuffed to her kitchen chair.
"What the hell are you doing, Ted? You let me go right this minute!" She wiggled her hands, trying to pull them away from the back of the chair, and slamming them against the wooden slats.
His response to her fussing was to pick her up, chair and all, and place it smack in the center of the apartment. He set her down, and she immediately lifted her legs to try and kick him, but he anticipated her move, and caught her ankles between his hands.
"Don't you dare try to kick me. Stop it right now, or I'll zip tie your ankles as well."
In frustration, she slammed her feet on the floor, and screeched her anger. "You undo me right now, Beckett! Who do you think you are? I'm not one of your damn"tie-up" women."
"And just what exactly are you to me, Maureen O'Kenney?" He leaned down, hands on her thighs, his eyes looking into hers.
Embarrassed, confused, and flushed, she had nothing to say, and looked at the floor instead.
"That's what I thought." He sighed, and stood upright. "I think I'll give you some time to think about what it is you really want... and myself time to figure out why I shouldn't just drag your pretty, little ass off to jail."
The sun had set, and the room was growing gloomy in the dark. He turned on the small lamp on the bureau, and without any other fanfare, made his way down the stairs. He could hear her yelling and banging all the way down.
"Damn it, Beckett. You kinky bastard! Let me go, or else! When I get free, I'm going to kick your freaky ass. You come back here right now. You can't leave me like this!"
He chuckled at the bottom of the stairs, and locked the door behind him.
|Games people play|
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