Against the Heart(2)

By: Kat Martin

"Lily, honey, come on. It’s time for us to leave." Her four-year-old daughter came running out of the bedroom. Lily had the same dark hair as Joey’s, the same blue eyes, but any other sign the two were related was in Joey’s drug-hazed brain. "Go get your travel bag and let’s go."

"Okay." Lily raced back to her bedroom and grabbed her red wheeled bag with a ladybug on the front. Meri grabbed the handle of her carryon. The bags were the last two items she needed tot load into the car.

In minutes she was on her way, driving her old, reliable Chevy Malibu out of Riverside, then hitting the I-15 Freeway heading north. Though she had a destination in mind, with her money now mostly gone, she would have to be flexible. She wasn’t completely sure where she was going to end up, just somewhere out of California where Joey couldn’t find her. Where he couldn’t continue to harass her and Lily.

She was on her way as far as the money in her wallet and her credit card would take her, on her way to a life somewhere else.

Meri just prayed wherever it was, it would be far enough away to disappear.

Ian Brodie took the Argonne Road exit off the freeway, east of Spokane. The road took him north, into the open Washington countryside. It didn’t take long to reach the rural, ten-acre property where he had been raised, the two-story farmhouse his father had been living in for the last thirty-five years.

He pulled his dark green Jeep Cherokee up in front of the two story white, wood-frame structure and turned off the engine, just sat there for a while. He’d moved out right after high school, gone to college in Seattle where he’d majored in police science, then become a cop with the Seattle PD. He’d left that profession years ago, taking a job as a private investigator for one of the local security firms. Now he owned his own very successful business in Seattle, Brodie Security, Inc.

As busy as he was, Ian didn’t get back to Spokane all that often, hadn’t seen his dad in nearly two years.

A sweep of guilt slipped through him. He should have returned a lot sooner. But since his mother had died five years ago, his father had changed. Daniel Brodie was little more than a shell of the man he’d once been. These days he was bitter, sour, and most of the time, downright unpleasant.

Ian looked at the wood-frame house. The place had deteriorated since the last time he was there. The white paint on the door was peeling, the front yard needed mowing, the rain gutter above the porch was hanging loose. He had figured the house would be badly in need of repair and had taken two weeks off to get the work done.

He had called his father, a little reluctantly since he was afraid his dad would tell him to stay away.

Climbing out of the Jeep, he headed for the door, trying to ignore the dread churning in his stomach. The front door was unlocked, the way it always was. Daniel Brodie didn’t believe in locked doors. Ian had tried to tell him that times had changed, but his dad refused to listen.

Daniel Brodie lived in the past and it looked like he always would.

Ian walked into the house, calling his father’s name. "Dad! Dad, it’s me, Ian!"

"I’m in the den!" his father yelled back, not bothering to come out and greet his only son. Ian steeled himself and walked in that direction.

Only one set of curtains had been opened in the living room, which was dark and smelled airless and musty. The furniture hadn’t been moved or cleaned since before Ian’s mother had died, the same burgundy overstuffed sofa, same maple coffee table, same crocheted doilies on the tables and the arms of the chairs, the cotton thread no longer white, but yellowed with age.

As he passed the kitchen the smell of rotten food hit him, making his stomach churn. A stack of half-eaten TV dinners sat on the kitchen counter, along with a three-foot stack of dirty dishes.

Ian silently cursed. The place was a screaming mess, far worse than he had imagined.

He continued into the den, found his dad sitting in his favorite dark brown Naugahyde recliner, his feet up, newspapers strewn all over the floor.

"Hi, Dad."

Daniel cast him little more than a glance. "’Bout time you showed up. How long has it been? Two years? Three?"

"Two years. And you’re right, it’s been way too long."