Twenty Minutes Ch. 02byMercuryLove31©
Author Note: You'll need to read part one of this story, Twenty Minutes, or it will not make any sense.
She was shaking with fear when she left the police station. Had she been followed? Were they waiting for her? She stood out front for a few minutes, absolutely terrified, until the cab she'd called finally pulled up and she slid inside. She turned every which way frantically to make sure no other cars followed them. She wasn't sure she could spot a tail, not if they knew what they were doing, but it made her feel better to look around anyway.
Shy had told her not to return to her apartment, but how could she do that? She needed her birth certificate, her social security card, her nursing license...and there were photos, keepsakes. But she might have to leave some of those things behind. If she went to her apartment, rummaging around and packing bags, she'd probably be killed. So, that was probably not a good idea. Maybe she could ask someone they'd never seen to get her important papers for her?
She leaned forward to give the driver a different address, ignoring his groan when she mentioned a location in the opposite direction. She'd go to Janet's house. It was the only real option she had. If they had any clue where she lived, Janet would probably confuse them. A gorgeous, white, blonde woman showing up in her stead? Since she was amazed they were friends, surely that would amaze anyone else.
The cab let her out five blocks from Janet's house. If she was going to risk a life, she would risk her own, not her friend's. And if she couldn't tell that someone was following her on a residential, deserted street at 2am, then all was lost for her future. Walking slowly, she tried to pretend it was simply a leisurely stroll in the dead of night (hey, if anyone was paying attention, it didn't matter because they would most likely kill her anyway). She stopped two doors down from Janet's moderate sized home and called her friend with shaky hands.
"Robbie, what the fuck? Do you know what time it is?" Janet growled.
"J-Janet," she tried to keep her voice from wavering, realizing it wasn't working. She swallowed hard, "J, I need you."
She didn't hear a trace of sleep in her friend's voice when she spoke again and she knew Janet was definitely awake now, "what's wrong? Where are you?"
"Well get over here."
The line disconnected and she quickly walked to her friend's home just as Janet opened the front door. After closing and locking the door, Janet drew her in for a hug.
"What's wrong? What happened? Are you okay?"
She tried to remain strong, tried to hold back, but it was a lost cause. The story poured out of her amidst a torrent of tears.
They sat at a small breakfast table in the kitchen an hour later. Janet had managed to make a pot of coffee even though her hands were now shaking. The cups sat before them untouched.
"Fuck Robbie. What are you going to do?"
Robbie shook her head, wiping at the last of her tears. "She told me not to go back to the apartment, to just leave...I-I-" She struggled past the fear. "I have no idea where to go. I can't go to Chicago, what if they follow me? I'm not going to put my family at risk."
Janet nodded, picking at a piece of cheesecake she'd managed to dig up. They were silent for a while, both thinking about possibilities.
"Did she really leave you all that money?" Janet finally asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.
Robbie unzipped the black nylon bag and shoved it toward Janet. Janet could do nothing but stare for a moment. It was a lot of money. Mostly small bills, some large...a lot of money. She reached for it and removed it all from the bag, piling it onto the table. Robbie watched her count it, not really caring about the total sum. She'd rather have Shy back, quite honestly, instead of a bag filled with money. The thought made her smile bitterly. A bag of money at the beginning of their relationship and now a bag of money at the end...how ironic.
"It's really $200,000 Robbie. Actually, it's $218, 342."
Robbie shrugged, "I don't care."
Janet looked over at her friend, sighing. She replaced the money and zipped the bag closed as her husband strode into the kitchen.
"Hey, you gals okay?"
Janet smiled as he leaned down to kiss her forehead, "yea, just a little girl problem. Nothing to worry about."
He smiled, pouring a glass of water for himself and then leaving. When she was sure he was gone, Janet looked at her friend intently, reaching out to cover her hands.
"What are you going to do Robbie?"
Robbie closed her eyes, shaking her head.
"I don't know...I really don't know."
"Well, you went to New Orleans a few years ago...you said you liked it down there. All those beautiful trees and lovely swamps."
Robbie smiled a little, "I didn't say anything about loving swamps, you idiot."
But she had loved the area. So rich, so green...huge, heavy, weeping trees, old mansions in desperate need of renovations, so much history. It truly was a beautiful part of the country.
"I don't know, I mean, after Katrina-"
"They are probably desperate for qualified nurses down there. You don't have to actually go to New Orleans, you can move to one of the neighboring towns."
She shrugged, thinking of her huge apartment, her mother's furniture, her job, her co-workers and friends. She would have to start all over. She sighed, but that decision had already been made for her, hadn't it?
"Maybe J...but I need a favor," she hedged.
"Yea, I know. You need me to get your stuff. I'm up for up. Let's just wait until daylight, okay? We can go when Larry leaves for work."
Robbie nodded, folding her arms on the table and resting her head on them heavily. She'd never felt like this before...adrift. That was probably the best word for it. In just a few minutes, everything had been taken from her. All her ties, her connections...as if she was an alien and she'd just landed on earth with nothing but the clothes on her back and a bag filled with money. It was the most bizarre feeling. And she was terrified of leaving. She was a planner, she always thought ahead, she never did anything out of the ordinary. After college, she'd moved out of her mother's house and into the same apartment she currently occupied. She'd always worked in the immediate area. There was hardly any real change in her life. She knew it was because of the chaos from her childhood. Her Dad's death, the loss of their home, their way of life, her mother's death...she liked feeling grounded. She needed to feel grounded. And now? She sighed. She'd met a woman that had altered everything. She'd taken risks, sexually and emotionally, she'd faced danger...and now, she was alone. She didn't even have Shy with her to cushion this blow. Once Janet retrieved her belongings from the apartment, she'd have to turn her back on everything and everyone she'd known and start all over again, alone. She sighed again, not realized how heavy her lids were. She was so stressed, so angry, so scared...and she missed Shy. She wanted her...desperately needed her...
Janet sighed as she watched her friend fall into a restless sleep.
* There were no goons waiting at the apartment for Janet. Relieved, she stayed on the phone with her friend, helping her to locate the paperwork she needed and pack just a photo or two. When her friend returned to the Jeep parked a few blocks away, Robbie hugged her with relief and then encouraged her friend to get behind the wheel and leave the area. She didn't glance back as they pulled away from the curb.
Janet drove her to the bank so she could deposit some of the money. She remembered from a television program that as long as it was under $10,000, the bank would not ask questions. So, she deposited $5,000 into her checking account and $4,500 into her savings. They then drove to Janet's bank and did the same thing. After a week, Janet would withdraw the money from her account and deposit it into Robbie's account. Robbie didn't bother mentioning that the account numbers she wrote down for her friend were bogus. She didn't intend for her friend to return the money.
After a trip to the drugstore for a few necessities, Janet drove her to the Philadelphia Airport. She didn't want her friend to wait, so she hugged her friend goodbye with a promise to call that evening. She wasn't sure she would, not comfortable with the idea of putting her friend in any more danger.
It was when she stood, alone, in the terminal that the situation became horribly real all of a sudden. She looked at the monitors listing all departing flights and tried to ignore the nausea and fear that threatened to overtake her. She sat down in one of the uncomfortable chairs, clutching the nylon bag to her, trying to take a deep breath and calm down. It suddenly dawned on her that they would scan her bag. Surely a bag filled with money would raise flags? What should she do with the money? She couldn't deposit it all. And although she knew Janet would do it for her, she didn't want to invite the police into her friend's life by asking her to deposit small sums until all the money was transferred. She sighed, she didn't have the wherewithal for criminal behavior. She'd spent her life trying to follow the rules. What would she know about depositing large sums of money? What did the criminals do in the movies? Where did they deposit their money until they could find a safe way to launder-
Jeez, did she really have to figure out how to launder drug money? She closed her eyes, this was not the time to panic. But she did need to figure out what to do. The thought suddenly came to her, a safe deposit box. People always had tons of cash shoved into those things. She would go to one of the larger banks in the city, open an account in order to deposit a little more money, and then put the rest in a safety deposit box. Surely $19,000 was enough money to relocate? People moved across the country with much less, right? At the thought, she released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She knew what to do with the money and she knew where she was going. Not New Orleans, but a neighboring city. Someplace with those lovely, hanging, lush, wispy trees. Maybe she could do this. Maybe she would survive this ordeal. Maybe things would work out. Maybe.
There were so many of them, kicking, punching, snarling at her. She just lay there, trying to protect herself, the sickening thuds from their assault muffled, the wet thwacks of their flesh against hers imprinted on her brain as she watched them strike her bloodied body over and over again. But she ignored the question they asked over and over again, "where is it, where is it," simply taking the beating. She saw the glint of the weapon in the light before he lowered it, sinking it into Shy's flesh, twisting it as she screamed and screamed and screamed...
She woke, her breathing uneven, a cold, clammy sweat clinging to her. She closed her eyes for a moment, hugging a pillow to her as the remnants of the dream faded. It was always the same one, Shy, beaten, bloodied...and then stabbed. She took a deep breath, and then another, wiping the tears from her face as her pulse slowly returned to normal. She looked around the room, disoriented for a moment, before awareness crashed in on her.
She'd rented a two bedroom house in a working class neighborhood in Thibodaux, Louisiana. She was working at a private nursing home ten minutes from her house, had bought a small Toyota, simple furniture, and was going about trying to live a normal life. It was working, unless one considered her general uneasiness and the regular nightmares.
She'd decided to use her own name, hoping the men who were searching for her hadn't managed to secure that information. Besides, she knew it would be much too confusing if people started calling her a different name. It had only been a year, but her life was normal now. She could wake up in the morning without the suffocating gloom of missing her old life...and Shy. Of course, the feelings were still there, the fear, the anxiety, the heartache. They would sneak up on her when she saw a familiar commercial on television, when she phoned Janet or her sister, or when a large figure walked past her on the street with a shape that was oh so familiar. But each day was a little easier and she knew the feelings were fading. At least that's what she told herself.
She should probably thank her co-workers. Once it had been determined that she was single, they kept her pretty busy trying to fix her up with eligible bachelors in the area. She didn't have the heart to tell them she was gay and she rather enjoyed the charm of Southern men, so she left them to their match-making. She'd even dated a few of the men more than once, allowing one to kiss her goodnight. His name was Reginald, he was a coach at one of the local high schools, and he was very sweet. There were no fireworks when he kissed her, but it was still nice.
She stood from the bed and made her way to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face. She stripped off the soaked nightshirt and donned a dry one before climbing beneath the heavy quilt again. It wasn't cold outside. In fact, in August, the weather in this part of the country typically hit the hundred mark and kept going. But she liked to keep the house just a little chilly at night, so she always set the central air for 65 degrees.
The nightmare had probably been triggered by her upcoming trip. It was her first time returning to Philadelphia since she'd left so many months ago. And she was only returning because of Janet. She'd taken a short leave from her job and would spend the next two weeks with her dear friend as she changed statuses from "mother-to-be" to "mother." Personally, she'd never understand the joy some women felt when they were about to become parents. Her maternal instinct had never kicked in, living proof, in her mind, that it wasn't a biological drive. Or if it was, the drive had clearly skipped over her. But if Janet wanted her in Philadelphia for the birth, she would be there. After all, Janet was practically family now. Well, after she'd forgiven her for forcing $9,500 down her throat. She was the only person who knew who she was and what she was running from. If that didn't make her family, she wasn't sure what would.
She glanced at the clock. 4am. She doubted she would be able to sleep again. Besides, her flight left at 10am and she had a lot to do before then. Sighing, she stood from the bed, straightening it out before heading back to the bathroom for a shower.
She could not believe how huge her friend was! Was this the petite blonde who valued her figure like others valued diamonds? Now she sat behind the steering wheel of her Jeep, the seat pushed all the way back to accommodate her protruding belly, chatting away about Larry and how he was driving her crazy. It was an old song, so Robbie felt comfortable tuning out. Instead, she took in the familiar sights as they entered the city, trying to ignore the tightening in her chest and the knot in the pit of her stomach.
"Hey, you okay?"
She blinked and turned to look at her friend, smiling weakly, "yeah, first time back and all that."
Janet nodded and then jumped a bit, "oh! There she goes! Here, put your hand here!"
She refused to worry about her friend negotiating the traffic as she reached out for Robbie's hand to place it on her taut belly. Sure enough, something was moving around in there. Some oddly shaped part of the baby's body had even made its way to the surface. The idea that "she" had started as an egg and currently lived in a sac of fluid was off-putting to say the least. Still, Robbie ooohed and aaahhed as expected. She really didn't get the whole pregnancy thing.
Janet managed to drive them to her house in West Philadelphia without crashing or giving birth, and for that Robbie was grateful. She was only staying at the house for a day and then she would pick up her rental car and move into a nearby bed and breakfast. Janet had begged her to stay with them, but she knew they would have their hands full with a new baby.
They chatted comfortably as Janet prepared a health shake and took a handful of vitamins. Then she apologized for abandoning Robbie, explaining that if she didn't take a nap she would become a mega-bitch. With time on her hands, she borrowed Janet's Jeep and set off to run a few errands. Janet had opened a PO-box for her local mail so that it wasn't forwarded. Janet hadn't had time to mail the latest batch to her, so she picked up three months of mail and sorted through it. It was mostly junk mail which she discarded. Then she made a trip to the bank. She hadn't needed any of the money in the safe deposit box since moving, but she wanted to stop by and check on the contents just in case.
She spoke with an associate upon entering the bank, not at all concerned when the woman furrowed her brow and then asked her to see the Branch Manager. She was escorted upstairs and into a nicely decorated private office. A moment later, an older man joined her. He was certainly someone with power considering the size of his office, the cut of his suit and his manicured fingernails. He sat behind his desk and typed some information into his computer. He was also furrowing his brow.
"Is there a problem? I have identification." Robbie offered.
He shook his head, "no, that is not the problem. The problem is that our records show that you emptied that box two months ago."
Robbie raised a brow, her stomach tightening, "what are you talking about? I was out of town. I didn't close that box."
He quickly printed out a form and placed it in front of her on the desk. She had to admit the signature was damn close to her own. Except she knew it wasn't hers. She had not emptied the box.
"Sir, it's very close, but that's not my signature. Are you telling me everything I had in that box is gone?"
He frowned again, comparing the driver's license she handed him and the signature. He then typed in more data.
"Ma'am, someone with a valid photo ID and forging your signature emptied that box. I'm not sure what else we can do besides call the police," he stated politely.
And although she was pissed and her stomach churned painfully, she hesitated. She would have to tell the police what was in the box and explain what she was doing with $190,000 in cash, wouldn't she? She swallowed. She'd been saving that money...well, if she was honest with herself, she'd been saving it for Shy. She'd never given up hope that somehow, some way, Shy had escaped that horrible night and was laying low. Shy would need that money and now it was gone. She stood, her legs unsteady beneath her.
"Uh, I need to make some calls before we call the police. I'll be back."
She hurried from the bank, trying to quiet her stomach. There was another reason she had held on to that money and that was just in case Ronnie and his goons tracked her down. And now, here she was, in Philadelphia, without the only leverage that could save her life. She looked around, the panic crawling across her skin, clinging to her. Forcing herself to remain calm, she rushed to get the Chinese food she promised Janet she'd pick up and hurried back to her friend's house.
She didn't tell Janet about the missing money. She didn't want to burden her very pregnant friend considering she was due any day. Instead, she managed to make it through dinner and then retired to the guest room to ponder her dilemma. She wasn't sure it was a bad thing necessarily. The money was gone, end of story. Of course, she wondered who would have thought to look for it. And who would have gone through the trouble of falsifying identification and forging her signature when they could have been caught? But there really wasn't anything she could do considering that amount of money, once reported to the police, would have to be accounted for and she simply could not explain it. So, the money was gone and that was it.