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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 61

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Jasper arrived, taking Harkness from Fred’s less than tender mercies. Wrenching the principal’s arms behind him, he didn’t listen to the screaming, but hustled him to a nearby cruiser.

“Keep an eye on him. His hand is broken,” he ordered.

“You got it, Boss,” Aaron said from a few feet away.

“Hang in there, kids, the ambulance is on the way. Deirdre, nice work, babe.” Jasper kissed her surprised mouth. “Nay will be very proud.”

Fred helped his eldest son to his feet and out of the pond. Deirdre and Corin tore up Corin’s shirt to wrap around Burl’s bleeding leg. Not long after, the ambulance arrived. Then another. The family loaded into them and were taken to the hospital.

“I can’t believe you did all that,” Deirdre said, giving each son a hug and kiss, followed by more, until they protested.

“I told you, Mom. No one messes with the Partridge Boys,” Aiden said, and passed out.

Hours later, the family was home. Deirdre was in a cast because she’d managed to tear a ligament when she ran after Harkness. Aiden was overnight in the hospital, but Eoin had asked to be the one to stay. Burl’s leg had taken thirty stitches to put back together, and Corin’s ribs and knuckles were torn and bruised.

“No school tomorrow,” Deirdre said. “Maybe not ever again.”

“You can’t keep us home forever, Mom,” Burl said. “We make you crazy in five minutes.”

“True. But the rest of the week and maybe the next….”

She got no argument.

They were trying to decide what to do for dinner, when the doorbell rang. Fred, who was the only mobile one, answered. Their cop friends were there with a ham dinner, complete with yams, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and fresh bread.

“We’ll keep it short, we know you’re in pain,” Vanessa said. “But we needed a celebration, now that this is over.”

“And tomorrow, we plan a funeral,” Deirdre said sadly.

“That’s all taken care of,” Teague assured her. “My mother and aunts took care of the details. She’s going to have a beautiful send off. We didn’t know if she was Catholic or Protestant, but I don’t imagine God minds one way or the other. It happened that our parish priest had an opening in his schedule and agreed.”

“How much did you have to persuade him, McTeague?” Jasper teased.

“Lil bit,” Teague said, holding his fingers less than an inch apart. “Actually, Father Barry is very cool. He went to school with some of my cousins.”

“Everyone went to school with some of your cousins,” Jasper reminded him. “Cause half the school was your cousins.”

“So did you,” Teague said, sounding petulant.

“Not denying it, and loved every minute of not being related to the most beautiful women in the county.”

“All that aside,” Nadeya picked up the conversation thread. “The service is set for two o’clock tomorrow. It was Barry’s only window.”

“Good. Does Eoin know?”

“Yes,” Nadeya replied. “He’s a pall bearer. We were going to have Aiden be one, but since he’s not in any shape for it, would you?” she asked Fred.

“I would be honored. She’s the mother of my granddaughter.” He blinked hard, pressing his lips together.

Deirdre knew he was very moved by the request. He might not shed his tears publicly, but she knew he grieved for the girl he barely knew.

Their friends left as soon as they’d cleaned up after dinner. The family spent a quiet night, sleeping deeply, knowing they were safe.

Despite the solemnity of the day, it was bright and sunny, too beautiful for the sorrowful occasion.

“Funerals should always be in the rain,” Deirdre mused as she dressed. “It feels like God is crying.”

“Maybe sunshine is better,” Fred said, holding her from behind. “Because it’s like God is welcoming his daughter home.”

They drove over to the church in Deirdre’s car with Fred driving. They had picked up Aiden earlier in the day, and he rode in the backseat, stony faced and somber. For once, the boys didn’t squirm or argue and they reached their destination in silence.

Walking into the church, Aiden paused on the threshold, his heart tightening in his chest. A sob caught in his throat. He didn’t want to break down so soon, but he couldn’t stop it. Eoin wasn’t far away. He took Aiden in his arms and they cried quietly together. Since they were sitting in for Wendy’s family, they sat in a reserved spot near the front. Their cop friends filled in the rows behind them. The members of the golf team who had graduated with Wendy, sat together, not far away. All the girls were crying softly. The boys looked red eyed, fighting the tears.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 60

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Oliver was in a heap on the floor with Corin standing over him, fists clenched. Burl held Moe by the front of the shirt, threatening to break his face.

“You okay, brother?” Burl asked over his shoulder, not taking his eyes from Moe.

“Yeah,” Aiden gasped. “Thanks. How?” He slumped to the ground, leaning against the cool, comforting tile.

“I saw Harkness poking at you. I knew he was up to something, so I grabbed Cor and we followed. When I saw you come in here, I called Jasper. They should be here any second.”

The door burst open again and Officer Mendez slid through the opening. “Boys! You’re okay. Well, some of you, sort of…. What happened?” He stood with his hands on his hips, trying to catch his breath. He’d run across the courtyard to find them.

Aiden explained, finally realizing that Harkness was gone. “Dammit, the bastard left!”

“You go see the nurse, let me take care of this. Jesus, what a mess.” He took his radio off his shoulder and started talking rapidly on it.

Aiden, Burl and Corin started toward the main office, to see the nurse. None of them had escaped injury, though they were excited by the outcome.

“Thank you,” Aiden said. “If you hadn’t come…. I don’t know how many of them it would have taken to whip my ass, but I knew how many they were going to use.” he quoted his favorite comedian, Ron White.

“He must be okay, he’s quoting stand up,” Burl said, dabbing a split lip with the neck of his tee shirt.

They were filing into the nurse’s office when they saw Harkness in the parking lot, running toward his car. Aiden tapped his brothers.

“We can’t let him get away.”

“Jasper’s coming,” Burl protested.

“He’s not here yet! You coming?” He dashed off, hitting the emergency door from the office.

Alarms started ringing, people stood up, wondering what the hell was going on. Soon, all hell was going to cut loose, and they’d lose Harkness in the morass of people spilling from the building. Realizing he wouldn’t get to his car in time, the principal started running. Corin went after him, his brothers flanking the running man. Each step took them closer. Across the driveway, over the curb, onto the grass. They were running out of time and space. Once he got to the road, there would be no stopping him.

Burl’s fingers brushed the man’s jacket as Harkness hopped the curb. He tried to follow, but tripped. Losing his balance, he fell hard, his shin scraping the concrete. He rolled to his side, bellowing in pain, his leg bleeding.

Corin hopped the curb, trying to tackle the principal. Had he been as tall as his brothers, he’d have made it. He missed by a breath. Aiden used the distraction to barrel full tilt at the conniving bastard. His long legs, and anger, gave him speed and power. He hit Harkness from the side, crashing into his hips. They went down in a tangle of arms and legs, rolling toward the retention pond at the front of campus.

Burl lay still, trying to stop the bleeding from his shredded calf. Corin struggled to right himself and recover, but his head was spinning and he couldn’t do much more than crawl.

With a mighty splash, Aiden and Harkness hit the pond. Aiden had the misfortune to be on the bottom when they landed. Gagging and sputtering, he got a breath, but Harkness was on top of him, pushing his face under water. Aiden thrashed and kicked, using his feet to knock the other man off balance. Finally connecting with Harkess’ balls he got the advantage. Bigger and younger, he had strength on his side, but Harkness fought dirty. Grabbing Aiden’s face, he tried to drive his thumbs into the boy’s eyes. When that didn’t work, he tried to punch him in the throat.

It was all Aiden could do to stay upright. He fended off the blows, but he was weakening. Hands slippery with water, he lost his grip. That was all the principal needed. Levering himself upward, he knocked Aiden down again. Grabbing the boy’s shirt, he raised his fist to strike a blow to drive his nose into this brain. Aiden couldn’t escape, he could only struggle feebly.

Thudding feet ran passed Burl and Corin. They couldn’t tell who they both were, but one was definitely their mother. They could hear her screaming before they saw her, like an air raid siren, loud, shrill and continuous. She threw herself at Harkness. Grabbing the hand which was raised to strike her son, she wrenched his thumb and fingers apart, like Nadeya had shown her. Not stopping when she met resistance, she heard the bones crack.

Harkness dropped her son. Screaming with pain, he found himself face first in the water. Fred grabbed his injured hand, twisting it in an Aikido hold as he flipped Harkness over. His foot on the man’s shoulder kept him face down, sputtering as he struggled to keep his nose out of the water. Fred pushed him further, increasing the twist and tension on the principal’s arm. A bubbling, gurgling scream escaped Harkness’ lips.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 59

sidetracked coverAiden ducked and slammed his fist into the other boy’s belly. Eddy fell with a thump and a grunt. Gasping for breath, he let out a high, shrill sound like air escaping a balloon. Aiden left him there, ducking down the staircase. He banged through the door at the bottom, jogging down the corridor, toward the courtyard.

“Aiden Partridge!” a man’s voice yelled his name from his right.

Turning, he saw Principal Harkness. The man was red in the face, his lips pressed so tightly together, they were white around the edge.

“Sir?”

“What are you doing, young man?”

“Going to class.”

“You’re running.”

“Sorry, sir. I didn’t want to be late.”

“You’re not just late, boy, you’re coming to my office. Get moving!” he bellowed, pointing to the administration building.

Without a word, Aiden shuffled toward the office. He passed Burl, who was at his locker.

“Sup?” he asked quietly.

Aiden shrugged, shaking his head. The man and teen walked out the door. As it swung slowly shut behind them, Burl watched as the principal prodded his brother with his fingers. Harkness shoved him hard enough for Aiden to lose his balance. Catching himself, Aiden stepped further to his left, away from Harkness’ reach. The principal sped up so he could poke him again. Not liking what he saw, Burl went to a nearby classroom. Corin was just sitting down. Burl tipped his head at the youngest Partridge.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Tyson, I need to borrow my brother. It’s important.”

“Sure.” The teacher frowned, but nodded. “Need a hall pass?”

“No, ma’am. Thanks. We got called to the office.”

“Okay.” Still frowning and puzzled, she watched the boys hustle out the door, trailing their brother and Harkness. Concerned, Ms. Tyson followed them to the door. Catching the eye of Officer Mendez, she pointed. “Something’s not right.”

“I’ll have a look. Not to worry. I’ve got this.”

She went back to her class, forcing a smile. “Good morning, class.”

“Good morning, Ms. Tyson,” they said as she closed the door.

Aiden had expected to go into Mr. Harkness’ office. Instead, the principle took him to the restroom beside the auditorium. These were generally deserted during the day, and often kept locked. Today, the door opened easily, and Aiden was pushed in ahead of the principal. Instead of empty, it held three other people: Xander, Moe and Oliver. The three boys had murderous expressions on their faces as they squared off with Aiden. He turned to go back out, but Harkness blocked his escape.

“What’s this about?” Aiden asked, assessing the situation. He tallied his chances of surviving this encounter, and didn’t like the total.

“You know what this is about. You and your pals shut down a very lucrative enterprise. You embarrassed a lot of people, caused more trouble than you’re worth. Do you know what happens to interfering trouble makers?”

“No, but I figure I’m about to find out.” He knew he could take any one of the boys, maybe two, but three—not even he was that good. Xander looked a little spooked, but he’d join his hood friends if they jumped Aiden.

“You’re a pain in the ass, just like your old man. He never played the game, either.”

“I’d rather play my own,” Aiden said, shifting his weight to take on the boys when they rushed.

“Foolish boy.” Nodding, Harkness signaled for the hoods to jump Aiden.

Moe rushed in first, going low with his shoulder, catching Aiden in the gut. He knocked him back a few feet, narrowly missing the tiled wall near the door. He took a swung at Aiden’s nuts, but felt his fist blocked and twisted hard. Bellowing, he tried to connect with his left. This was blocked, too. A leg sweep brought him to his knees, screaming.

Xander hung back, but Oliver jumped in, taking another swing at Aiden. He couldn’t block Oliver and contain Moe, though he did duck. Oliver’s fist still smacked the side of his head, making his ears ring. Another fist came at his face, and someone punched him in the stomach. By this time, he didn’t know if all three were on him, or just two. Lost in the pounding fists, he felt himself falter. Just as he thought he was going down, someone yanked Moe away.

A cracking blow landed, followed by a smack against tile and a loud, ululating groan. Closer to him, he saw Oliver tugged from behind. Blood spattered him as a fist, not his, connected with the boy’s nose. Xander tried to run away, but Aiden tripped him. He fell, hitting his head on the sink. Slithering to the floor, he bled from a cut to the chin.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 58

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Eoin went to get a shower. Aaron called Jasper, giving him a brief report. He heard the water cut off in the bathroom, and saw Eoin walk to his room and fall into bed. Lying face first on the bed, Eoin lay there naked, the light on. Aaron pulled a blanket over the other man and turned out the lamp, before settling for the night.

Luckily for everyone at the Partridge house, the night was quiet and uneventful. Deirdre still woke with a start, after a particularly disturbing dream, which faded as soon as she opened her eyes. Fred was curled at her side, looking so much like Aiden, she felt a lump in her throat. Somehow, the peace of the night made her more nervous. Unable to get back to sleep, she hobbled to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

Tonight, Jasper was the one burning the midnight oil. He smiled up at her, offering her a cup of coffee. Since she didn’t think she’d be going back to bed anyway, she accepted.

“Couldn’t sleep, huh?”

“It’s too quiet, like the calm before the storm. I had a nightmare, some faceless something was following me.” She shuddered. “But it wasn’t exactly running and chasing, more lurking in corners.”

Jasper shuddered too. “Oh, you had to say that. My worst nightmares are like that. What’s sparked it, you think?”

“We’ve put away some very bad people and solved Wendy’s murder. But what I don’t get is, whose idea was this? Bullock’s not smart enough to do this himself. He’s a great patsy, but not a lot of little gray cells to rub together.”

Jasper put his elbows on the table, leaning toward her. “You figure there’s a master mind we didn’t roll in with the others. We had pictures of all those people, lists of names….”

“Yeah, but what if it’s someone who never attended? Wendy would never know.”

“True.” His nod encouraged her to go on.

“It would have to be someone involved with the school. This sort of thing couldn’t continue without a person to cover their tracks. But for the life of me, I can’t think who.” Shaking her head, she sighed. “I want to believe this is over, Jasper, but I’m simply not convinced that it is.”

“We’ve got you covered, Dee. We’ll watch your family.”

“I know, but you can’t do so forever. You have lives and families, and mine can’t live like this. I learned a long time ago to stand up to my fears, but there’s no one, nothing, to confront.”

“I wish I knew what to tell you. I guess we’ll have to figure it out together.”

“Sooner than later.”

They sat and talked until the boys got up. Fred got up with them. Nadeya followed a few minutes later. She and Jasper made breakfast. It was time for the boys to go, and Deirdre hugged and kissed them all three times before she allowed them to leave.

“Wow, Mom,” Corin said. “We’re okay. Chill, huh?”

“I’ll chill when you’re all home safely,” she said, giving him another kiss.

“Ready?” Nadeya said from the living room.

“Yes!” the boys said loudly.

“Thanks, I’m feeling the love,” Deirdre called after them.

“Mom, if we were openly affectionate, you’d think we were sick,” Burl said as he went out the door.

“Boys!” Deirdre complained.

“Who wants a game of Cards Against Humanity?” Fred suggested.

“Anything to take my mind of things,” Deirdre replied.

She, Fred, and Jasper sat down to play.

Aiden was getting weird looks from faculty and students. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but figured it had something to do with Wendy’s death.

“So, you’re the one, huh?” One of his golf team buddies accosted him in the hall between classes.

“What are you talking about, Eddy?”

Eddy shoved him hard. “You’re the one who ratted it all out. I was counting on that scholarship!”

“What they were doing was wrong, Ed. You were their whore.”

“I wasn’t doing anything I didn’t want to. So why didn’t you just mind your own business?” He shoved Aiden again.

“Maybe we should have arrested you along with the others,” Aiden said, standing his ground. “You’re so broken up about it, go cry to someone who gives a f**k. I did the right thing.”

“Bullshit you did!” This time, Ed took a swing.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes, Sidetracked, Florida, Murder,

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 57

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

The spot grew bigger, and stage lights came up showing the others behind him. Together, they sang Reaching for the Moon by Irving Berlin. Before he finished the short, emotional song, he was in tears. He heard sniffs and sniffles around him. When he finished, he dropped his head.

“I loved you,” he whispered, not expecting the microphone to pick it up.

Leaving the stage to thunderous applause, he handed off the microphone and went to his dressing room. Without stopping to change, he grabbed his bag and clothing, marching out the stage door. He’d forgotten all about Aaron, only concerned with getting outside as soon as possible. No one tried to stop him. They all knew what had happened, but had no idea Eoin felt so strongly about the young woman who was killed. Blindly rushing to the parking lot, he didn’t pay attention to his surroundings until he heard a scuff and shuffle to the rear.

“Perty lady like you ought not to be out on her own,” a rough voice, at his heels, said.

Eoin swung around to see a grubby individual in a shabby Army jacket and tattered jeans. He was slight of build, but looked fast and held a knife as if he knew how to use it. Tossing his bundle of clothing out of the way, Eoin wished for a weapon. He didn’t even have an umbrella like Deirdre had. Casting a quick look over his shoulder, he noted no one else was creeping up on him. The knife wielder took that moment to rush him. Having expected that, Eoin blocked with his leather messenger bag. Knocking his attacker back a step, he lowered his stance, taking a more defensive position. The position wasn’t easy in a tight dress and six inch heels, but he managed.

The assailant rushed him again. This time, Eoin used the bag as a weapon, slapping the knife away with the flat of it. He drove the edge into the man’s throat and stomped on his foot with the six inch stiletto. Screaming, the other man leaned over, grabbing at his foot. Eoin brought his knee to the man’s jaw and smacked him on the back of the head with his bag. Aaron raced out the back of the club, Eoin yelled at him. It wasn’t words, so much as a growl of anger and desperation.

Aaron ran to his side and put his foot on the back of the assailant’s neck, keeping him on the ground, while he called for back up. “You okay, Eoin?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” He gasped to catch his breath, clutching Aaron’s arm.

“You go wait inside. I’ve got this.”

“I don’t think I can walk yet.”

“Okay.”

The criminal wiggled and writhed, but Aaron’s booted foot kept him down. He hadn’t thought to search the other man, not realizing he was armed. Eoin saw the knife blade arc to stab Aaron in the leg. Roaring like a rabid lion, he kicked the knife away and stepped on the man’s hand. His heel sank into sinew and flesh.

The man screamed, calling for help, and that’s when the police arrived. It took some fast talk, on Eoin’s part, to keep from being arrested for assault. With Aaron’s statement, and copies of the security video, they let him go and carted the other guy off for medical attention.

“You sure you’re okay, Eoin?” Aaron said, after the cops left.

“Yeah. Maybe. I don’t know. I thought my life was finally falling into place. The love of my life came back to me, we were going to start a life together.” His face collapsed. Drawing a shuddering breath, he clung to Aaron’s arm. “She’s dead. And I should…I should have stopped her. Found her the money.”

“I’m going to take you home,” Aaron said. “They can manage without me at Deidre’s house. I’ll tell the guy at the door. You’ll be okay?”

“Yeah.” He bent over to gather his scattered belongings, trying not to cry.

Aaron came back, Stacy, the hostess, in his wake. She often acted as house manager, as she was tonight. “You okay, sugar?” She squatted by him, taking his face in her hands.

“Yeah…. No….”

Stacy gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. “It’s gonna be okay, sweetie. You ever need a shoulder, you call me, okay? I lost my fiance a year ago, in Iraq. Friends help.”

“Thanks. Right now, I wanna go home and drink myself into oblivion.”

Stacy gave him a hug and helped him gather his things. Once he was settled in the car, Aaron drove him home. Taking Eoin’s keys, he went in and checked to make sure no one was skulking inside. Satisfied it was clear, he let Eoin go in.

“Drinking it away doesn’t work,” he warned. “Trust me. You just wake up, hungover, with the same problem. Better to just try for a good night’s sleep. You call me if you ever need to talk. You’ve got friends, Eoin. You don’t have to do this alone.”

“Thanks, man. I appreciate it.” They exchanged a brief hug.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 56

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

“I’m proud of you for nursing,” Deirdre said. “I’m glad young mothers are coming back to the right way.”

“You know my doctor tried to talk me out of breast feeding?” Nadeya said. “As soon as he stopped screaming, I asked for my records and found another doctor.”

“Another testicular torsion?”

“Na, titty twist. Very effective.” She laughed, cutting her eyes at Deirdre, who laughed loudly.

“I kicked my OB in the balls when I had Burl. He and I didn’t see eye to eye on several things. Long story short, he didn’t tell me I had a few hoops to jump through for an epidural. Then he goes to sew me up without any numbing agent. It was reflex POW!”

“She had awesome aim,” Fred said, carrying in a tray full of mugs and coffee things. “His wasn’t a torsion, but he was limping when he left. Served him right, he was a complete terror the entire time.”

“We had to go to him because of the insurance,” Deirdre said. “But I complained so about him, they dropped him and got a really lovely woman. She delivered Corin.”

“I was lucky with my OB, she’s got midwifes with her, and one of them delivered Ray.”

“More family?”

“The doctor, not the midwifes. One of them a very handsome guy.” She raised an eyebrow.

“I guess I went into the wrong field,” Fred said, pouring them each a cup of coffee.

The other men trailed in with dessert and plates. They enjoyed their treat in the living room.

“Bedtime,” Fred announced, pointing to his boys. “I’m driving you in the morning, so move it, Rawhide.” He made a whip-crack sound.

“I’ll take them,” Aaron said.

“No need….”

“I’d rather. You and Dee stay here with Jasper and Nadeya, and I’ve got the boys.”

“I’ll go,” Nadeya said. “I have to pick up Ray-Ray. I can pump some, but I need my baby fix by then.”

“Okay, it’s settled. Nay takes the boys, Jasper and I will stay here.”

“You’re not worried about Nadeya by herself?” Fred asked.

Jasper chuckled, kissing his wife. “My wife is nine times more lethal than anything those jokers can send. No.”

Eoin headed to Daytona, riding to the club with Aaron. He had everything he needed in his satchel, and he’d already done the prep work at Deirdre’s house. Walking in, he was greeted like a long, lost prodigal son. Assuring everyone he was fine, he settled in his dressing room and put on his foundation garments. These nicely padded his chest and rounded his hips and buttocks so he looked more feminine. Once this was accomplished, he dressed and started his makeup and hair.

The stage manager came by a few minutes after he’d finished, greeting him and going over special guests, events and so forth, that he was to mention during his spiel. Eoin always ad libbed his introductions, preferring to be spontaneous and in the moment. He felt a little flustered and off his game, but once the house lights went down and he took his spot for the opening number, the butterflies stopped fluttering. He was in his element, ready to take possession of the stage. The music came up and his voice formed the first words of Feeling Good by Nina Simone, echoing in the dark. As the music built, the lights came up, to find him seated on a stool, in a glittering black sheath dress and fishnet stockings. His own black hair had been teased and glittered, standing up like Tina Turner’s.

As he went through the evening, he couldn’t stop himself thinking about their situation. He wasn’t afraid for himself, but he was worried about Deirdre’s family. He didn’t let the preoccupation interfere with his performance. If anything, he did better than he had in a long time. They had finished the grand finale, and the cheering audience begged for one more song. Eoin whispered to the others, and the band, what he wanted to do.

“That’s gonna bring everyone down, man,” Miss Twiggy, an anorexic looking performer, said.

“This is important to me. Please just do it. I can’t explain now.”

“Fine. But my objections….”

“Are noted.” Signaling the band, he walked alone onto the stage.

Slow, soulful music began. A soft spot came up on Eoin’s torso. Standing in the half dark, he spoke quietly into the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I lost a very dear friend, the love of my life, a few days ago. She was murdered.” A gasp escaped the audience. “Normally, I would end the show on a high, happy note, but if you’ll bear with me, I would like to dedicate this song to Wendy.” Soft applause followed.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 55 by Dellani Oakes

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Deirdre and Fred both shuddered. “Thanks for the compliment—I think. Only one woman gets in my pants, but better left unsaid.” He kissed his wife’s hand. “What about Wendy?” he asked gently. “When will her body be released?”

“Soon,” Vanessa said. “Do you still want to claim it?”

“Yes,” Deirdre said.

“We’ll all pitch in, give her a lovely send-off,” Teague said. “And I’ll hook you up with the best in the business, at a discount.”

“Another relative?”

“Yeah. We take care of friends and family. Y’all are both now. You’ve been officially adopted by the McTeague and McMurtry clans.”

Eoin brightened. “From County Donegal, to the north?”

“The very one,” Teague grinned. “Don’t tell me.”

“I’ve got a McTeague or two in my family tree.”

“No kidding? But none here in the US?”

“Not a one. Why?”

“Because, I’ve got some cousins who would love to meet you.”

“They’re gorgeous,” Jasper added. “You will not be disappointed.”

“How would they feel about dating a drag queen?” Eoin asked.

“Probably wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Aaron said. “They’re pretty hard to shock, too.”

The extra company left soon after, though Aaron stuck around. He was under orders to stay close for the next couple of days. No one minded. They had a large house and everyone enjoyed Aaron’s company.

Since Fred was home, Eoin decided to go to work. Friday night was the busiest of the week, and he not only head lined, he hosted. He was going to drive himself, but Aaron insisted upon taking him.

“I don’t want you to leave the family,” Eoin said as he shaved.

Aaron stood in the doorway, talking. “They’ll be covered. Jasper and Nadeya are coming over. They’re leaving Baby Ray with Teague’s wife. They’ll be here any minute, and they’re bringing dinner, so you can’t use that as an excuse. You’re getting an escort whether you want it or not.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Maybe, if you were in fighting trim. But they beat the shit out of you once, what makes you think they won’t do it again? And you’re still bruised. I’m going with you, that’s final.”

Bridling somewhat at the ultimatum, Eoin sighed. “Fine. You can come in and watch, if you like.”

“Thank you. I intended to. Glad we understand one another.” He patted Eoin on the shoulder and went to change.

True to their word, Nadeya and Jasper arrived with a huge meal, sent by Teague’s uncle.

“I’m good with guns, I don’t cook,” Nadeya said as she set things out. “You need a compound infiltrated, I’m your girl. Sniper in the church tower, I got ya covered. Whipping up an amazing meal for ten people, not my game.”

Deirdre laughed. “I love cooking for crowds, but not when I’m limping. I can shoot, and I mostly hit what I aim at, but I’m not the infiltrating sniper type. I think it’s cool that you are.”

“I think it’s cool that having a house full of drop-ins, doesn’t bother you.”

“You’re bringing food, I don’t care at all.” She paused, trying to find words to voice her fears. “You think something might happen tonight. To us, or to Eoin.”

“Not all of them stayed in jail. They’re rich and connected, and managed to pull the right strings. Word has filtered down, somehow, that there are people taking a stand, speaking up. We’ve got friends watching everyone, so please don’t worry.”

“Just saved the big guns for our besties,” Jasper said, snagging a carrot off the relish platter.

Nadeya whisked it away with one hand, twisting his fingers with the other. “Behave.”

“Ow….honey, ow. It’s just a carrot,” Jasper said, wincing when she let go.

“You need to teach me that,” Deirdre said. “It would come in handy at Thanksgiving.”

“Happy to.” She set the tray down and spent the next few minutes showing the move to Deirdre. “Works like a charm. You can do it with one or two hands—two is easier. Add a little more pressure and twist to it, you can break fingers like kindling.”

“Good to know. I hope I won’t have to use it.”

“Me too.”

The meal was finally ready, and they all sat down to eat the best barbecue they’d ever had in their lives. There was chicken, ribs and pulled pork. All the sides they could imagine, including a huge mixed salad. There was plenty left over for another meal, after they had all eaten. The men cleaned up while Nadeya and Deirdre settled in the living room.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes