four corners pd

By: Cin and Heidi


Day Three: Saturday

Part One

Haney House

Saturday Afternoon

The young man settled quietly but uneasily on the stool at the counter.  There was no one in the diner; he purposely hid down the street until the last customer finished his pie and left.  With the college out for the weekend, any afternoon traffic would be light.  He did not see anyone behind the counter or in the back through the pass through window cut out in the wall, but he could hear dishes being washed and a radio played some lively Tejano music.  Hearing a rustling noise below the counter, he placed his foot on the bottom railing and raised himself up until he could peer over.  He smiled at the slight figure kneeling on the floor, furiously wiping out the shelves under the counter.

He cleared his throat and deepened his voice, “Excuse me?”

“Be with you in just a moment.” The young man heard the female announce without looking up.

A minute later, the gray haired woman straightened from her task to greet her customer.  The cornflower blue eyes brightened with pleasure at seeing his welcome face.  Darting a quick gaze around the empty diner, she gripped his hands in hers and a smile turned the corners of her mouth upwards.  “Goodness, boy, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”

Vin ducked his head. “Reckon it’s been a few weeks.  Sorry.”  He felt guilty enough not to meet her gaze because of everything she meant to him.

She patted his hands tenderly in understanding.  “I know you’ve got a job to do son.  Your friends have been telling me you’re fine.  Could have done without Nina acting mysterious, but that’s just the girl’s way.  Just nice to see you with my own eyes every once in awhile.” 

Her support meant everything and her understanding briefly calmed his worried soul.  The lack of censure acted as a temporary balm to his weariness, but the guilt did not dissipate.  He returned the slight squeeze to her hands and gave her a sad half smile.  His blue eyes, always truthful with her, betrayed him and allowed the guilt he felt at causing this woman anymore pain or grief to shine through.

“Stop that!” She admonished him, tightening her grip and not allowing him to pull away.  “We’ve been down this road before, and we knew this would be tough.”

“Not this bad and not this long.  Caused ya enough grief before.”

“You weren’t the cause; you were the cure and the start of making things better.  God knows where we would have been without you.”

His eyes slid closed in pain at her words, thinking to himself without his interference years before, she might still have her husband for starters.  He knew he disappointed her in the past, and he was never perfect.  Take that mess with…best not to go there.

“Vin,” she whispered his name quietly, reaching up and taking his chin in her hands until he opened his eyes and looked at her.  “Son, there was nothing you could have done, what happened . . .happened. You know this, let it go, it’s alright.  I know there’s at least one soul that wouldn’t be on this earth if it weren’t for you, and probably more if I think about it.  I’ve made my peace, and you should too.”

He sighed heavily, seeing the worry and concern in her eyes.  “Don’t mean ta cause ya such worry again.”

“I’m a tough old bird.”

He smiled at that, knowing that was true.  Maybe not the old bird, but the tough applied.

She patted his hand fondly, “Besides, trying to keep up with you young ‘uns keeps me young.  You know that scoundrel Wilmington picked me up Friday night?”

The smile grew into a chuckle.  “That’s why ya got all them grey hairs.”

“Don’t get sassy with me, boy!” Nettie tried but failed to keep an indignant frown on her face.  She smiled a bit in relief to see some of the guilt slide from his face, but knew it was only buried for an all too brief time.  He always carried too much upon himself, even when he knew there nothing he could have done any better to change the outcome. Then, they had been played like puppets by a master.  To this day, no one knew for sure the depth of evil they lived in for so long, and not one person wanted to take the time to look.  Those who did were quickly and quietly discouraged, along with any outsiders.

He grinned at her and winked, savoring the few moments of normal banter between them.  “Saw Chanu yesterday.”

“Did he tell you the news?” She asked cautiously, but her eyes twinkled with pleasure.

He nodded.

“That boy’s been fair to bustin’, he’s so happy.”

“He’ll make a good father,” Vin said softly.  Once more, his mind turned to darker thoughts.  He’d used his brother yesterday to help him, and he wouldn’t be able to do that anymore . . . he couldn’t do that anymore.  It would be putting Chanu and his family in too much danger.  Just as he continue to chastise himself for the stupid impulse to come here and risk his association with Nettie.

Seeing his mood about to change, she thought of something to help continue the happier thoughts.  “You’re wasting away, boy.”  She shook his arm a little, testing the thickness and felt more bone than during his last infrequent visit.  “I’m going to fix you something to eat.”

“Don’t want ta be no trouble, ma’am.”

Nettie smiled.  Even when she had first met the young man as a troubled youth running from the law, he had always been unerringly polite.  No one would have expected it from one so beaten down and misused as he had been, but his manners never failed, at least around her.  She sat a large glass of iced tea with lemon in front of him.  “Hush now, no trouble at all, and it doesn’t look like you’ve been eating regular.”

Vin refused to answer.  Instead, he took a tentative sip of the tea and reached for the sugar packets.  Nettie made tea like he made his coffee – strong enough for a mule to kick.  Most times, he liked it strong, but this freshly made batch needed a little softening.

She disappeared into the kitchen area, returning shortly carrying a plate heaped with generous portions of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas and two yeast rolls.  She set the plate before him and reached for the pitcher behind the counter to refill his glass.

His mouth watered.  He told himself this was Nettie’s home cooking; it had been too long since he enjoyed this and he would savor every bite.  The first taste was heaven and the second even better.  He rarely indulged himself with a trip to Nettie’s diner because of his assignment.  The undercover officer tried to limit his contact with any of his family or friends, especially her.  He did not want to endanger her or drag her into anything like before, but he relaxed just a little to make the most of this stolen visit. Starting with a dinner that did not come from a drive-thru window, a bag, or a microwave.

She heard his deep sigh of contentment as he took his first bite of food and smiled again.  Looking closely, she saw that in addition to the weight loss, he had a hint of dark circles forming under his eyes, betraying his tiredness.  Nettie also noted the remains of the fading bruise along his cheek.  It angered her to see the signs of abuse and neglect; she cared too much for him.  “You’re not taking care of yourself,” she stated with a mixture of fact and worry in her voice.

“I’m fine,” he mumbled, relishing the home cooked meal, and secretly, her concern.

She snorted, “Don’t try to fool me son, you look like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders.”  He always said he was fine when he was not; she always knew the difference. 

Vin shrugged.  He knew she was already worried but he did not want to confirm the need. His mind kept playing over his meeting with Haskill the day before, and hated the feeling of dread that took up permanent residency in the pit of his stomach.  Vin kept his head down and moved his food around on his plate, losing interest in eating due to the conversation topic.

“The usual gathering is at Nina’s today.”  She advised him of this information, hoping the change in conversation would settle him a bit.  “Are you going?”

His frown deepened and he shook his head. “Want to.  Don’t think I better try.”

“It’s not going well, is it?”  Nettie noted the wary blue eyes that rose up to meet hers.  “I know you can’t talk about it, son.  Just maybe you better find someone to get that mess off your chest before you suffocate.”

Sighing heavily he muttered, “Already tried, didn’t do no good.”  That meeting yesterday only spiked his fears instead of allaying them.  He dropped his fork onto his plate realizing it really wasn’t one of his best ideas to come here.  She was not only a ‘tough old bird’ but also a smart one.  He knew she was aware of most of the things that went on in the town, good or bad.  The awareness came courtesy of the ear she kept open at her diner, a hub of information itself, and her link to the police department through him, Casey, and the others.  Then there was the fact that she could read him like a book.  And he knew she wanted to help.  No matter how well she handled herself before, he didn’t wish to see her in danger now. 

Vin knew the organization’s henchmen often followed him around.  He’d been under even closer scrutiny lately, and he knew they were checking up on him more and more frequently. The thought of her hurt because of him was not something he could live with.  So far, he had been able to keep her visits to her and the others out of their notice.  What if they followed him today and he did not see them?  “Aw, hell!”

She patted his hand in comfort. 

He looked up at her concerned face and knew exactly why he came.  She was one person he could halfway contact without fear of blowing his cover.  Here he was just a customer.  And if they did pick up on the past link between her and Keith Taylor, Taylor would shrugged it off and say ‘Yeah, so the old broad’s soft on me, it’s an easy touch.’  Vin Tanner, however, respected her more than that and valued her support and counsel.  In addition, she was one of the few people he knew he could trust, with his life if need be.  They had already been through a kind of hell together, and she would go there again for him, but that was not what he wanted, now or ever.  He wanted to keep her safe, and he did not want to see her grieve anymore, especially over him.  She had suffered too many personal losses in her life.  Now he knew for sure he was here because he was selfish.  He just needed to see a friendly face, and as in the past, hers was the first one he thought of.

She asked, “Is there nothing I can do?”

He smiled shyly, thinking of how she had already saved his life by taking in a scruffy teenage runaway who was one step away from taking a very different, destructive path with his life.  A path that would have been the exact opposite of the career he was in now.  She had been there to heal his soul after his stint in the Army that engraved a black mark upon it he believed for good.  Her support continued even when she did not agree with his bounty hunting days, when he thought that was the only opportunity open to him at the time.  And she was here now, offering her calm presence when he needed it most. He was searching for an anchor to help him settle his wayward thoughts.  There were few he could seek out that would help him center himself, regain his calm and find his balance, perhaps help him focus so he could logically sort through the information and feelings he was getting from the case.  It was too dangerous to seek out Larabee or one of the others from the squad all the time.  He now knew it was useless to go to Haskill.  She was not his beloved, departed ma, but she came damn close in his opinion and affections, and her mere presence helped settle his spirit.  His eyes answered her question – just being there helped him. 

“How much longer?” asked Nettie, watching the differing emotions wash over his face, wondering if he would bear up under the stress for much longer.  She knew he could but that was not the point; she never wanted anything bad to happen to him, including working himself into an early grave.  There’d been too much misery already.

Vin shrugged again, picking up his fork.  “For every step closer I think I’m getting, I find out I’ve been shoved two steps back.”  He shook his head.  “Don’t know fer sure.”

Nettie turned from the counter to the pie storage behind her, pulling out the fresh baked apple pie to cut him a heaping slice and found the whipped cream.  In truth, she did not want him to see the flash of fear in her eyes.  As much as she waved the fears and worries off for his sake, the memories of what he went through once before to bring justice to light came back full force, and she could see that same danger lurking around him now.  Then, they were all in peril from someone they believed on their side.  An evil man who ruled behind the protection of a badge and held more power than anyone had imagined at the time.  He had been defeated but it had cost her.  She’d lost her husband, her brother, and almost the boy she thought of as a son, and sadly wished her own two boys had been more like him.  Not counting all the others she knew who paid a heavy price, some still paying for it today. 

They hid behind the secrecy; grateful no one wanted to talk.  Those in the center of the storm took comfort in the silence.  Some ignored their wounds, some let them fester, some forgave, some refused to forgive, and some buried pieces of their souls forever; the result was the same – everyone was scarred from that time.   Nettie intellectually knew what Vin did was dangerous, but this felt like there was no control, unlike last time and then it was disastrous. 

Turning back, she placed the piece of pie before him, taking the now empty dinner plate away and placing it in the bus bin at the end of the counter.  As she returned in front of him, he took her hand in his again.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean ta worry ya’.”  Despite what she said, he knew it bothered her and words felt inadequate to express his regret at causing her heartache. 

She smiled gravely and patted his hand in reassurance.  “You do your job, son.   Chief Travis and the force have done a marvelous job of bringing this town a sense of security again.  I know you’re doing must be done.”  She fully smiled at him then.  “Just like you’ve always done. I just thought when the Sheriff was ousted, left, resigned, was asked to leave, no matter what story you believe, we were done with this mess.”

He shook his head again, “It just don’t feel right.  It’s more than typical drug dealers trying ta hook college kids on drugs. Almost feels as bad as when he was around.”

She frowned at this and caught the unease in his eyes.  She felt her own breath catch at the thought.  “You don’t think . . .” Her hands gripped the counter.

Her reply was cut short by the entrance of another customer into the diner.  Silently, she was thankful it gave her an excuse to hide her own reservations and shakiness.  She moved away, going to the bus bin and taking it back into the kitchen, knowing it had to appear that Vin was just a customer.  Vin glanced behind him and silently cursed under his breath.  He knew this was as stupid move on his part, he told himself again, and now she could pay the consequences.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  He did not want to drag Nettie into this business, and driving that car made it hard for him to hide.

The man moved up beside the undercover officer.  He was a few years older than Vin, keeping his dark blonde hair slightly long, but professionally styled.  At the moment, he was dressed casually in khaki pants and a dark blue, plaid dress shirt.  Of course, Vin knew the clothes were deceptive, having seen him dressed in jeans and a T-shirt to blend in with the college students, or in expensive business suits to mix with the elite of the town. And Vin knew the man could change his personality as easily as he changed his wardrobe.


Vin did not bother facing him as he took one of the last remaining bites of his pie.  He refused to allow this man to ruin his indulgence.  “Jennings, ya followin' me around fer some reason?”  A cold, hard edge of suspicion colored his tone and he wondered if the man would admit to it or not.  His eyes flicked over the man once.

“Well actually I was looking for you.”  Jennings gave him an insincere smile.      

“Ain’t that what ya gave me this electronic leash for?” Vin pointed to the pager he wore at his waist, the one they issued him and changed frequently.  All to assure ‘employees’ could not use it for their own advantage, or give the number out to anyone and expect it to continue working.

“I just happened to notice your car as I was driving by.”

Noticed, my ass, Vin thought to himself.  Finishing his pie, he pushed the plate away and wiped his mouth on a napkin.  He threw it down on top of the empty plate.  Finally turning and facing the man beside him, he nailed him with a deadly glare.  Larabee would be proud.  He had been ‘working’ for Roland Jennings for the last few months, although most of the direct contact was through Bellows or one of his motley crew. The Task Force knew Jennings was not the big fish they were trying to catch, but he was one of the steps they needed to climb to get there. 

While at first it had seemed easy to get into his organization, as time went on the jobs became more disagreeable and the little tests of his loyalty more dangerous.  Yet, even as they seemed satisfied with his performance, he was not getting enough useful information to close down the large-scale criminal operation trying moving into Four Corners.  It frustrated Vin to no end to toady with this bottom-feeding scum.  The man reminded him of a trapdoor spider that let a person get so close then closed the trap long before one even knew the trap was there.  “Ya found me, what d’ya want?”

Roland eyed the young man before him warily.  The kid was smart, street smart and even smarter with his mouth.  He was tough too; he had easily taken care of the last three delivery boys Roland sent to carry a subtle message to him.  Although he knew the kid was hurt, it was not as bad as what the three errand boys had received, and that success earned Vin quite a bit of respect.  Anyone that went three on one and still beat the snot out of the three was someone to reckon with.  Or put down with a bullet from a distance.  Still, he did not trust him and would have taken care of him long ago, but he received orders from his bosses to bring this whelp further into the organization.  Whatever their plans for this kid, Roland hoped he could be there at the end to get his own shots in.  “You’ve been mouthing off you want better jobs and more money.  I have someone who wants to meet you, might have a job for you.”

“Tired of my winnin’ personality already?” sneered Vin, leaning back and propping both elbows on the counter.  He kept a cautious watch out the window.  He did not trust Jennings, half expecting a ‘surprise’ waiting for him in the parking lot.

Roland bit back his response.  “Just trying to give you some more opportunities.”

“Guess ol’ Marky Mark’s flapped his gums at ya ‘bout our meet yesterday?”

Jennings gave a single nod of his head. “Heard you were dissatisfied.”

Vin snorted and turned away from him to stare back outside. “Ya makin’ another meet like with Creech?”

The man frowned.  Bellows reported that Taylor knew the drop had been a set up.  “Sorry, we can’t follow the more traditional means of background checks.”

“Thought I checked out already.  Now ya decide not ta trust me and throw me ta yer gators.  Seems I shouldn’t be trustin’ any of y’all.”

Roland’s smile was feral. “So we have a mutual understanding.”

Tanner rolled his eyes.  How stupid was this man?

“But since you passed, are you or are you not interested in a bigger challenge?”

“We talkin’ good pay?”

“Top dollar,” Jennings confirmed.

“Where do I meet this guy?”

Cocking his head toward the door, Roland indicated they should go, “I’m going to take you to him right now.”

Vin pursed his lips; this did not leave any time to notify his contacts of this development.  Maybe this was the next step they had been looking for, and he did not want to blow it by not going along.  Nodding his head once in agreement, he stood and reached into back pocket for his wallet.  He threw some money on the counter, turned toward the door, and began to walk out.  “Let’s go see if this will be worth my time.”  Though his back was to Jennings, he was prepared for anything and kept watch in the reflection of the front glass for any surprise moves.  There were none and he reached outside without incident. 

Roland smirked at the young man’s departing back, thinking it was going to be worth someone’s time.  He looked down at the bills on the counter and picked them up, following Tanner to the door.  Nettie stepped back out of the kitchen area to the counter, saw him remove the money, glared at the man’s retreating back, angry but not wanting to start something Vin would have to defend her for.  Roland turned and giving her an evil grin, daring her to do something.  Her glare hardened but he just laughed as he left the diner.  Nettie rubbed her hands up and down her arms feeling a chill from the exchange and felt renewed worry for Vin’s safety.

If she had time, she just might have to ride out to Nina’s later when everyone was there.  This felt completely wrong.  A call wouldn’t do; she’d have to see them in person.

Part Two

Nina’s House

An annoying noise sounded throughout the house at one forty-five p.m.  Jarred from her precious sleep, Nina finally registered the doorbell was ringing, checked the clock on the nightstand, and groaned.  Who dared risk their continued existence on this earth by showing up early?  Her friends knew not to bother her until the last possible minute, and they didn’t use the front door. 

Finally collapsing in her bed after eleven a.m. this morning, compliments of the rape call, she slept solid until now.  Turning off the now no longer needed alarm, she tossed on some clothes and wandered downstairs, not caring about her loose hair or bedraggled appearance.  The doorbell rang again.  After trying to smooth the sleep mussed strands of her hair with her hands twice, she shrugged and thought if the idiot was brave enough to show up early they should be brave enough to face the consequences of seeing her as she was.

Opening the door armed with an insult, Nina stared in surprise at her mother.  Her immaculately groomed, hat-bedecked, glove-covered hands, perfectly made up, snobby mother.  The rude response stuck in her throat.

Bethany waited impatiently for her daughter to greet her. 

“Mother,” Nina said in a flat tone, not wanting this visit and knowing it could only bring bad news.  Her head hurt from lack of sleep and all she wanted to do was crawl back under the covers and wish this woman out of existence. 

The older woman finally lost patience with her daughter, especially with the pale blue eyes, so like the girl’s father, that were blinking uncomprehendingly at her.  Just like always, Bethany resignedly sighed and knew the girl needed prompting in proper manners.  Some things never change.  “Invite me in, Regina.” 

Her mother’s use of her birth name struck the intended nerve and caused the younger woman to flinch slightly.  Bethany refused to acknowledge the fact Nina legally changed her name, over her objections, when she turned eighteen to something the girl claimed she could live with (and liked) more than Regina.  It was also a show of independence on the rebellious eighteen-year-old’s part. 

Filled with dread, Nina backed up a step and held the door open, closing it once the woman cleared the portal.  “It’s Nina, you know that, and what are you doing here?”  The hangover feeling from lack of sleep and stress caused her to sound clipped, short, and rude.  Not that she thought she would sound politer, even if she was in a better mood.  Not where this woman was concerned.

Bethany sniffed.  “First things first, or have you forgotten your manners, Regina?”  The mother intentionally refused to call her daughter by that ridiculous name her daughter chose for herself with her son Rory’s help and encouragement.  The girl needed more reminders on receiving company and Bethany wondered how she could have gone so wrong with this one, her only girl and middle child. 

The daughter sighed and took her mother’s hat, gloves, and purse, placing them carefully in the foyer closet.  She showed her mother to the formal living room, seated her in the chair she knew Bethany felt like a queen in, and went for refreshments as expected.  The coffeemaker started gurgling, the most wonderful sound in the world, and she could hardly wait for her first cup.  In the meantime, she poured her mother a snifter of apricot brandy.  The brandy was kept on hand just for Bethany because the woman liked it and it was easier to have it available rather than to argue with her the few times she popped in.  Carrying the snifter out on a tray as was only proper, Nina found her mother checking for dust.  The words escaped her mouth before she could pull them back in.  “The housekeepers came yesterday, Mother.”  With her crazy schedule, she happily wrote a check once a week on Fridays to a pair of ladies who cleaned houses to supplement their meager incomes.

Bethany sniffed with distaste.  “Then you need to pay more attention to their work.  Do you see this layer here?”  She pointed to the one tiny spot they missed.

Nina lost all loving feelings for her parents long ago, and right now lacked any patience with her mother.  Each word showed her disgust at dealing with her surviving parent.   “Mother.  Why.  Are. You. Here?”  The younger woman knew these meetings only led to further aggravation and hurt, mostly for Nina than for Bethany.  With her current lack of sleep and general malaise, Bethany’s visit only soured her already shaky mood.

As expected, the tone caused an immediate offensive reaction by her mother.  Her words showed her distaste at Nina’s current temperament.  “Such an attitude.  One would think you did not have a proper upbringing even after all the money we spent on tutors.  Would you look at yourself?  Your hair is a nest for rodents, your clothes are repulsive, and you get fatter each time I see you.  You are too young to let yourself go this way.  You should be ashamed to call yourself a Caswell.”

Inwardly, each word cut through the recently healed emotional wounds like a sharp knife.  Or Nina only believed the life-long emotional damage inflicted by her family was behind her.  It only took a moment in her mother's unwanted company to see those tender wounds open and start bleeding again. Outwardly, Nina appeared in control, saying, “I’m not in the mood, Mother.  Get to the point before I throw your snobby ass out!”  She privately admitted her control slipped a little at the end with the snobby ass but hey, tired and cranky perfectly described her.  Besides, with this woman, she could care less.

“Such vulgar language.  It must be that Wilmington man’s influence.  Are you still being indiscreet with him?”  Indiscreet was her mother’s way of saying ‘are you still having pre-marital sex with that lowbrow man outside the bonds of matrimony?’  The family’s Catholic beliefs ran the strongest in Bethany, who tried imposing her will on all her children.  She felt glad it partially took with Regina; the girl respected God and most of the beliefs, but would not consider herself devout.  The pre-marital sex was an issue that stuck between the two women because Bethany could not stand Buck, looking down her blue-blooded nose at his background.

“Whenever it suits me, Mother.  He’s willing and I’m willing, we’re both adults, and it’s none of your damn business.”  She aimed the partially true words to verbally wound her mother.  It also reminded the older woman that Nina lived her own life and had done so for some time.  She escaped her mother’s house for the sanctuary of her uncle’s casino as soon as she could legally leave the hell that was her mother’s domain.  Nina attended the University of Nevada Las Vegas using the casino for room, board, and employment, but it mainly served as a way to get herself out of her parents’ house.  At this point, the truth that Buck was more a friend and not a lover did not matter.  Buck irritated her mother and Nina used it to her advantage.

Bethany sniffed as she realized the mistake she made in coming here and reluctantly accepted her daughter would never be more than a social outcast no matter how hard she worked to improve her.  Inwardly, she cringed at the embarrassment her daughter had become to the family by moving away.  Of course, all this started after that disastrous debutante season that ruined all of Bethany’s plans.  The mother never placed the blame fully where it belonged – her own impossibly high expectations and the young man who attempted ruining Regina, causing the girl to overreact – but put it squarely on her daughter’s shoulders for not measuring up yet again.  Taking a deep breath, she sighed and imparted her news even as her own thoughts continued to focus on the disappointment that was her daughter, “Fine, Regina.  I felt it proper to inform you of your brother’s marriage.” 

The mother allowed that during that embarrassing incident years before, the young man did not help the situation with his licentious attitude, nor did Regina with her actions.  In compensation, Bethany’s own brother Pete, Regina’s uncle, encouraged the girl’s independence to the point of giving her a place to stay in that den of iniquity, Sin City.  Pete arranged for college brochures to arrive at the house and fall into the eager young woman’s hands, giving the girl a way to become what she always craved to be – a law enforcement officer.  Bethany still had not forgiven him for that, even after all these years.  Her plans for Regina involved a good society marriage, children, and Regina becoming a hostess of significant caliber in their Carolina hometown.  Bethany’s attention finally focused back on the vile words her daughter spewed at her.  

“Someone finally tied him down or you found the perfect trophy wife and doormat for him?”  Nina made no secret she hated her younger brother Richard, a hatred that grew as the siblings aged.  Events of a few years ago drove a permanent wedge between the brother and sister, to the point they could not be in the same room together without flaying verbal strips off the other, if they spoke at all. 

Bethany ignored the sarcastic, spiteful tone.  “Yes.  The darling Andrea.”  Andrea, in Bethany’s opinion, epitomized what a perfect wife and daughter should be. 

“They’re finally formalizing their illicit affair?”  The thought repulsed Nina and involuntarily she shuddered. 

Bethany defended her youngest, seeing only what she chose to see.  “There was nothing untoward about their courtship.” In the mother’s narrow mind, her youngest child, Richard, was the only one befitting to be a member of her family.  Perhaps in her desperation to have one of her offspring live up to her expectations, she ignored his failings and only regarded what she wanted to see.  Bethany reveled in his fawning attention and adoration.  Attention and adoration his older siblings saw for what it was, ‘sucking up’, a practice they could not tolerate nor take part in during the torturous years all three Caswell children lived under the same roof and later into adulthood.

Nina snorted, offending her mother further.  “She was fucking him while she was married to Rory, or did you conveniently forget that?  There is a word for it, Mother, and it’s called adultery.  Obviously one brother was not enough for that slut.  Your precious grandson is Dickhead’s son because, ‘the darling Andrea’ got knocked up by Richard while still married to Rory.  Did you forget that she didn’t know who the father was until the DNA tests came back – again, after RORY DIED?  And because of that shit Rory DIED, you lost your HUSBAND, not that you cared, I lost my FATHER and BROTHER, and you still don’t give a damn!” 

Rory was Nina’s deceased older brother and Andrea was his wife while he lived.  Sadly, Andrea cheated on Rory with his brother Richard and became pregnant, unsure of the identity of the father of her unborn child.  When Rory found out about the affair, he turned immediately to his sister for advice and support.  She gave as much as she could, but he found other methods of escape that eventually cost him his life.  His death triggered the fatal heart attack that claimed Nina’s father.

Bethany winced and tightened her lips at the language.  “How crude.  You have proved why you could not be invited to the wedding; you are an embarrassment to the family.    Moreover, before you begin your next wearisome tirade, one I have been forced to endure from you repetitively over the past few years, do not forget you are not free of sin.  Your actions were irresponsible, or have you forgotten your conduct after the loss of your so-called family in that den of iniquity?  Where was your precious baseborn lover then, Regina?  He surely was not at your side, and he was not doing anything honorable.”

“How dare you, Mother.  YOU didn’t lift a perfectly manicured finger to help me then.”

“My distraction was understandable; I lost my husband and son.”

“And damn near your daughter, too, but that would have served your purposes.”  Nina stormed over to the closet, grabbing Bethany’s things.  “Get the FUCK out of my house, Mother.  I’m not going to take this FUCKING shit from a HELLBITCH like you in my own house.  Go the FUCK back wherever you came from, and don’t FUCKING bother me again.  As for Dickhead and the Bitch, they can take a flying FUCK for all I care!”  Nina shouted this with considerable heat behind it.  Her head throbbed even harder than it did before and she only wanted her mother gone.

Bethany realized now was time to break the family ties for good, and cut this child out of her life.  She once had unlimited hope for her eldest son, Rory, especially after they had arranged for Rory to marry into such a fine family, but that proved to be a disaster and he continued to be a disappointment, at least to her.  Now all of that had been put right with the marriage of Andrea and Richard with one exception - her only daughter still chose to be a problem, a problem easily corrected.  

From this point on, she would not have a daughter, just a son Richard, a daughter-in-law named Andrea, and grandson nicknamed RJ.  “I see they were right and I wasted my time.  You are no longer my daughter and I will be leaving now.  Consider yourself disowned.  Do not expect to hear from me again.”  Bethany knew exactly what she did when she said those words; they would cut the young woman she no longer acknowledged to the core, and leave her powerless to act against her mother.

Anger overflowed as she snapped back, “Good, because Buck’s coming over and we’re going to screw like rabbits.”  Nina deliberately threw that out to purposefully insult her Mother’s sensibilities. 

“Well.  Enjoy yourself, Regina.  We will not expect you at any family gatherings if you cannot keep a civil tongue in your head.  However, if you give your blessings and apologize, I will welcome you back into the fold.”  The society matron still thought about appearances and her own high standing within her circle of peers.  The continued rifts in her family did not show her in the best light, and she hoped the step she took today would raise her in their esteemed estimation.  She checked her watch, grateful she needed to leave in order to catch her flight home.

“Not being expected is the best news I’ve gotten all day.”  Nina shoved her mother out the front door, slamming it once Bethany climbed into the waiting limousine.  The pungent smell of apricots offended her so much she dumped the remainder of the brandy out in the sink without bothering to wash the glass.  She then downed two cups of coffee in quick succession.  It tasted wonderful, but set off a slow burn in her already churning stomach.  By this time, it neared two and she numbly walked back upstairs to change clothes.  In a way, she was surprised the visit only took fifteen minutes.  Any time spent with her mother seemed like an eternity.

Finding a comfortable outfit – she hoped they would understand if she slept through the game tonight – Nina mechanically started laying out the food, trying not to let her shocked mind go through the implications of the visit.  Almost all the food came from Nettie, Mary, and Inez, three dears who helped her out with the last minute planning of this gathering. 

Her mind decided not to cooperate with her plan.  The longer she performed mundane chores, the more her mind reviewed Bethany’s disowning and the memories her mother dredged up about that horrible period in her life. The situation, which started a chain reaction, a reaction that left a permanent scar emotionally.  Her anger level rose and she finally went into her office/study combination and found a telephone number.  She dialed the home number of the attorney and prayed he answered.


“It’s Nina.”  Her voice nearly broke.  She could almost see his kind face as she twisted the cord in her fingers.

“Hello, sweeting, how are you?”  Brett Keyser smiled as he thought about the young woman that carried so much responsibility so well.  He’d known her since he and her Uncle Pete went to college and pledged a fraternity together, spending significant time in the Caswell vacation houses.  He saw her there during the many exiles her mother put her through when Nina acted up at home and was sent away as punishment for her ‘bad behavior’. 

“It’s time.”

“Time for what?”  He hoped she finally got the guts to do what he’d been recommending for years.

“What you want me to do.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Absolutely.  Bethany ‘disowned’ me today.”  Her voice broke twice.

“How nice,” he cracked.  “I’m guessing she’s not aware you’re on the telephone with me?”

Nina choked back a sob as she realized the big, irrevocable step she took, but did it anyway.  “No.  Take care of things for me, please?”

“Are you okay?”


“Do you need me to call Pete, have him come down and visit?”

“I can’t talk to him yet because all he’ll do is yell about her.  My head hurts too much already.  She just left.”

“Ouch.  Bad argument?”  Brett was well aware of the tortured history between mother and daughter, knowing Bethany’s bitchiness first hand, having dealt with it extensively after Nina’s father’s death and every month since then.

“Did you know Richard and Andrea married?”

“Oh, damn.  I’m sorry, sweeting.  I hadn’t heard, or I would have called to warn you.”

Nina sniffed.  “What’s done is done.  I won’t let them take advantage of me anymore, and I don’t need this in my life.  I’m finally getting things together, figuring out what I want, and I don’t want this crap from them anymore.  You’ll be hearing an earful, I’m sure, once it goes through, but I’m not doing it anymore.”

“Good for you.”

“You mean it’s about time.”

“Sweeting, you’ve got an incredible heart, even after all you’ve been through.  I just don’t want you taken advantage of, that’s all.”

“Take care of it, please.”

“Okay.  What about Pete?”

“He’s going to yell.”

“I know.”

“And then he’ll celebrate.”

Brett started laughing.  “I’ll call him tomorrow for you, give you a little time.”

“Thanks, Brett.”

“Anytime.  You know that.  If I can fax you some paperwork and you sign it, I’ll get the ball rolling.  You’ll need a witness.  If they get ugly, let me know.  I’ll take care of it.”

“The witness won’t be a problem.  I’ll send it back in a little while.  Did I ever mention you’re wonderful?”

“I know,” he replied, and they both laughed at his claim.  “Take care of yourself, you hear me?”

Nina sighed.  “I will; now I’ve got to get ready before everyone else shows up here.”

“Having guests over?”

“Poker game.”

Brett laughed.  “Don’t lose your fortune and enjoy.  I’ll let you know when it’s done.”

“Like I can lose the fortune, Brett.  Thanks.”

“No problem.  ‘bye.”

“Bye, Brett.  Don’t let Pete talk you into Internet Poker again.”

He started laughing again, saying, “Never,” as he disconnected.

Once she replaced the receiver, the enormity of what she’d done hit her with the force of a brick between the eyes.  She threw up twice, the coffee finally staging a revolt.  Afterwards, a crying jag lasted only a few minutes. Ending the moment of weakness with a squaring of her shoulders and a firm resolve that there would be no more of that, she wouldn’t tolerate feeling sorry for herself, or showing any feelings whatsoever in reference to that part of her family.  They never made her feel worthy as she grew up among their influence, and she realized finally that they were definitely not worth it.


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