Concrete Evidence

By: Rachel Grant

For Dave,

Because you always believed in me.





PROLOGUE



November 1952

US Army Garrison Fort Belmont, Maryland

HE ARRIVED AT REGINA GUERRERO’S house at the usual time. As he walked up the front path, he waved to her son, Ricky, who played in the yard. The four-year-old grinned, his wide brown eyes the only part of his face not covered in dirt. Gina needed to take better care of that kid.

She met him at the door, then stumbled as she led him into the living room of her cramped army house. Dammit. She was already drunk. He’d wanted to talk to her about their future, but when she was drunk, the sex was quick and she usually passed out afterward.

Moving boxes were stacked against the wall. An agonizing surge of hope brought him to a dead stop. “You changed your mind. You’re leaving Claudio and coming with me when my transfer goes through.”

“You silly boy.” She laughed, a cold, hard sound, and walked into the kitchen, probably to refill the empty glass in her hand.

He followed, his face burning at her insult.

She reached for the bottle of whiskey on the counter and filled her glass. Sipping her drink, she studied him over the rim, then reached for his pants. “We don’t have much time. My sitter for Ricky canceled.” She felt his hard-on and smiled. “Sometimes your age is an advantage.”

He never should have told her he’d lied about his age to get into the army. Now that she knew he was only sixteen, she was always making cracks about his age, no matter what he did to prove he was a man. He pushed her away. “We need to talk.”

“I didn’t invite you here to talk.” She reached for him again.

He closed his eyes as her hand cupped him. They could talk later…

No. Regina would pass out, and he’d end up babysitting Ricky. Again. He opened his eyes and stepped away from her. “Why are you packing?”

“We’re going to live with my parents in Montreal while Claudio is in Korea.”

Her words crushed his ridiculous hope. “But I’m being transferred to San Diego. I want you to come with me.” Wanted. Needed. He was sick with the idea of being forced to live so far away from her.

“We’re going to stay with my parents.” She downed her drink in one long swallow.

“Please, Gina. I love you. I can take care of you and Ricky. You can get a divorce, marry me, and we’ll be happy.”

“Claudio will never let me take Ricky away from him. And he won’t let me leave when he needs a mother to raise his son.” Through the kitchen window, her gaze fixed on the boy. “As long as I have Ricky, I’m trapped.” When she faced him again, her eyes were moist with tears. He pulled her into his arms.

Her kisses were as violent as her hands, and he wondered if sex was supposed to be so combative. She perched on the kitchen counter and bit down hard on his ear as she came, while her son played right outside the window.

After she finished, she pushed him away and slipped off the counter. “I need to lie down,” she said and wobbled into the bedroom.

He zipped up his pants and stared though the window. The boy, completely covered in mud, played with the garden hose. He pushed up the pane of glass. “Ricky,” he said. “You need to take a bath. Your mom wants me to take you to the movies.”

Thirty minutes later, Ricky was clean, dressed, and on his way out to the truck while he looked in on Regina. She was sound asleep, her mouth wide open. He wrote a note saying they’d gone to see Cinderella.

“Cine?” Ricky said, after they’d been driving for a half hour.

It took him a moment to figure out what the boy was asking because he spoke Spanish and French better than English. “Instead of the movies, we’re going someplace very special.” He hoped the boy understood him, but it didn’t matter.

They drove for another hour before he turned at the weathered sign that marked the driveway for the Carleton School for Indian Boys. He headed down the long drive and parked in front of the old building. The Pennsylvania boarding school was a dumping ground for Indian orphans and the perfect place for Ricky Guerrero. This way Gina could leave Claudio without fear, and they would no longer be stuck with a kid she didn’t want.