After talking to Colonel Shay, Frank tells Marka and his parents that his former commander was trying to reach him, but won’t give them details. His mother presses for details and he gives the standard, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill her.” He’s not laughing afterward.
Paula tried to laugh that off, but the glitter in his dark eyes showed them he wasn’t being flippant.
“In a nutshell, I’m going to have out of town visitors. My house is a crime scene. . . .” He signed, sinking slowly to his chair. “This is unbelievable. Completely unprecedented.”
“They can stay here,” his mother offered. “We have lots of room.”
Frank chuckled. “No, Mom. This isn’t a slumber party. Let’s eat, shall we? I’m starving. The burgers smell fantastic.”
He tried to act bright and chipper, but it wasn’t easy to pull off. They all knew he was hiding something big, but he wouldn’t tell. He couldn’t.
Frank made every effort to act normally during the meal. He forced himself to smile, laugh and interact with Marka and his parents. Dark images played at the back of his mind, haunting him. Maybe it was the alcohol, or the fact he’d smoked more in the last thirty minutes than he had in three months. Perhaps, combined with stress and fatigue, his mind really was playing tricks on him.
Marka cut the evening short, sensing that Frank needed to get away. She claimed she had to get up for an early meeting and had him out the door before 10:00. Frank was subdued on the drive home. He gave her directions absently, nearly missing a couple of turns. Fortunately, she recognized the neighborhood and turned in the front gates, parking in her designated spot.
Turning off the car, she faced him. Before she could say a word, his hands were on her face, pulling her to him. He devoured her mouth, his hands searching her body with an urgency she’d never seen in him before. He stopped just as suddenly, clasping the back of her neck, his forehead pressed against hers. He tried to speak, but he couldn’t. His breath came in sharp gasps as he fought the panic rising in him.
“Let’s get you to your room,” she said softly.
Frank nodded weakly. Marka opened his door and he practically fell out of the car into her arms. He got his feet under him and walked to the front door under his own power. When they got in the elevator, he leaned against the wall with one arm, head lowered. The door closed and he kissed her again. The burning ache was back. His loins hurt from wanting her. He thought he’d explode if he couldn’t have her—all of her—immediately.
Afraid he’d hurt her, he backed off, easing his grip on her. He continued to kiss her, but toned down his actions so he wasn’t mauling her like an animal. The doors opened on their floor. Luckily, no one was there. They walked to his room, not seeing another soul, and he let them in. Shoving the door shut, he took her face in his hands again, kissing her with passion greater than any he’d ever felt.
“I need you, Marka. I have—I want. . . . Please!” His voice broke, his tone pleading.
He was disgusted with himself. He’d never begged a woman for sex, even when he was at hormonal teenager.
“Before we explore that territory, you’re going to tell me what the hell is going on. I’m in this too. You might not be willing to tell your parents, but you’ll tell me. And don’t give me any shit about having to shoot me.”
Groaning, he rubbed his face with his hands. “I need coffee.”
She set up the pot while he leaned against the wall. Hands folded as if in prayer, he leaned on his joined fists, one foot forward, supporting himself.
“I did a lot of bad things on the job,” he said, sounding as if he were talking to himself. “The more I try to forget, the more it comes back to haunt me.”
Marka said nothing. She finished setting up the coffee and led him to the living room. They sat on the loveseat together. He put his arms around her, holding her close.
“You can tell me. I won’t judge.”
“I can’t. I want to. . . .”
“Did you kill people?”
“It was a war, baby. Of course I did.”
“I meant. Without provocation.”
“If you want to know if I assassinated someone, I can’t answer that directly.”
“That’s a yes. More than one?”
He shifted uncomfortably. “A soldier follows orders. He worries about the morality of it later.”
“Does this have anything to do with what’s happening here? Did it get Ralph hurt?”
“It hasn’t anything to do with Ralph. That’s a separate incident. It has to do with the break-ins.”
“Figuring that’s peevishness because it wasn’t in my office.”
“Professional soldiers get peevish?” She found that hard to believe.
He chuckled, shaking his head. “Roll with me here, babe. I’m feeling this out as I go.”
“Meaning you aren’t sure it’s a professional.”
“Let’s get that coffee.”
They served themselves and sat down on the loveseat once more.
“Shay wasn’t specific. It was an unsecured line on a cellphone. Easy as fuck to tap into. He did say that the body that was found wasn’t one of ours—his. He’s looking into it. Those red flags went up on his end too. That’s why he’s been trying to reach me. He was worried when he couldn’t find me at home.”
© Dellani Oakes