I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 40—Drawing to a Close
Mrs. Crestwood didn’t tell me much of anything that I didn’t already know—except that I didn’t know that Butterfly had depended on her so much during those last two years, and I can truly see that Mrs. Crestwood cared about her. This wasn’t just a favor to “family;” she was genuinely concerned about Butterfly. I’ll be happy when the time comes that I can tell Butterfly about this trip. I think it would do Mrs. Crestwood some good to see how well Butterfly is really doing.
Williams has taken Taylor and me to a little bar on the east side of Vegas called Dylans. It’s nothing spectacular or even seedy. It’s just one of those neighborhood, side street bars and gambling halls that the locals frequent to unwind. There is one particular local here that has my interest this evening… Stephen Morton. He’s a fair distance from home tonight. In fact, he’s closer to Mrs. Crestwood’s neck of the woods. I’m wondering if Whitmore may have tipped him off that someone is snooping around. He would certainly want to get his money’s worth… and my little trip to the bank will insure that I get mine.
Once again, Taylor is positioned at the end of the bar and I have taken a seat closer to Morton.
“What’ll ya have, friend?” The bartender asks.
“I’ll have what he’s having.” I say pointing to Morton. The bartender looks over to Morton, who looks at me suspiciously, “and I’ll buy him a refill.” After an expectant pause, Morton murmurs, “Gin and tonic.” As the bartender goes to fill our drinks, Morton asked, “Do I know you?”
“I don’t know,” I reply, “Do you? Christian Grey.” Morton turns back to his drink.
“Can’t says I do,” he says, bottoming out his glass. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company? I’m sure you want something. Not accustomed to seeing expensive suits wander into this place.”
Stephen Morton is a shell of a man. I can’t really gauge his height, but whatever it is, he’s shortened further by the stance of a man who appears to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His skin is that clammy gray color that comes from too much alcohol and not enough nourishment. He looks like he slept in his clothes—they’re wrinkled but not dirty. He has the stale smell of alcohol that has saturated his body and now seeps through his pores. I can tell that he’s harmless enough, he’s just not there anymore. He’s one of those people who just floats in and out of a day with no particular purpose. The bartender brings our drinks to us and I send him away with a $50 bill.
“You look like you could use a meal,” I say. He raises his head slowly after swigging his gin and tonic.
“What’s it to you?” he asks, his voice clear and concise. He appears to have just crossed over into the Land of the Drunks in that his appearance and language has not completely deteriorated, but he clearly doesn’t care anymore.
“Nothing really,” I say, sipping on the grotesquely watered-down drink made with obscenely cheap gin. Yeah, I won’t be finishing this. “But we have a mutual acquaintance in common… a few in fact.” He turns on his bar stool.
“I’m friends with someone who’s friends with you?” he asks, incredulously.
“I didn’t say friend, I said acquaintance,” I say, turning to face him. “Before I tell you that, I’d like to know something. What do you hear of your stepdaughter these days?” Morton’s head jerks back quickly.
“My stepdaughter!?” He asks. “I haven’t seen her for years! It’s a shame she doesn’t even call her own mother,” he adds. I wonder why that is, Asshole?
“Why do you think she wouldn’t want to speak to her mother? Could it have anything to do with the incident at the bonfire?” I ask casually. His eyes narrow.
“What do you know about that?” He asks coldly.
“Everybody knows about it. Young girl horribly beaten at a bonfire… no suspects. That’s no secret.” I continue.
“Yeah, but that happened 10 years ago. Why are you so curious about it now? What are you, a reporter? Looking for a story?”
“No, I’m no reporter.” I fold my hands on the bar. “But I am looking for information.”
“For what?” he asks.
“I want to know exactly what happened to Anastasia. I can’t for the life of me figure out why something this bad happened in an affluent community and you were all willing to sweep it under the rug—particularly you and her mother.” I say the last word with more disdain than I intended. He looks at me and back at his drink.
“All I know is that Carla called me to the hospital telling me that the girl was there, and she wasn’t waking up. She didn’t wake up for a few weeks. She didn’t finish that school year either.” He swigs his drink again. I gesture to Taylor, who comes over and occupies the stool on the other side of me.
“I’m sure you know more than that,” I say to Morton and Taylor pulls a ream of bills out of his jacket and puts it on the counter in front of me. Morton eyes the bills and then looks at me.
“Who are you?” he asks.
“I told you. I’m Christian Gray.”
“What is this to you?” he presses.
“That is of no consequence. What’s important here is that I want to know every single little thing you know about this situation, including how it involves Cody Whitmore.” Now, Morton sits up straight and has that Green-Valley-ready-to-run look on his face.
“I don’t know nothing about Cody Whitmore,” he says quickly, like the phase is a rehearsed answer to the question; practiced, ingrained, and perfected over 11 years—name, rank, serial number, and I don’t know nothing about Cody Whitmore.
“Oh, yes, you do,” I say calmly. “I have a record of $750,000 that guarantees that you do. You want to try again?”
“Look!” he says, leaning in to me and looking over his shoulders to see if anyone can hear him. “If you know about that money, then you know damn well that I can’t say shit. Nobody has asked me anything about that shit in 10 years. So, tell Whitmore that his fucking secret is safe with me!” he spits. I didn’t think I could dislike this man any more than I already do. I was wrong.
“Morton, I already know your kind,” I sneer. “You’d sell your soul for a dollar and you sold your stepdaughter for three quarters of a mil—part of which I’m told was supposed to have been her college fund. Now, she’s buried in student loan debt because you, what, drank away her future? I don’t work for that phony, fake, small-time, fucking poser Whitmore. When I’m done with that asshole, he won’t know what hit him, and if you’re afraid of him then you should be fucking terrified of me!” I’m glaring in his eyes and he’s completely devoid of arrogance or haughtiness of any kind. I only see uncertainty and fear. “I’m making two lists of people to take with me when I leave Vegas. Which list will you be on?” I say, picking up the stack of bills and slamming them down on the bar in front of him.
Morton looks from the bills to me a few times, then begrudgingly asks, “What do you want to know?”
“Where to begin? Ah, how about your first meeting with Whitmore, when Anastasia told you that little shit raped her. Let’s start there,” I growl. He swallows.
“Well, we went to Whitmore’s and confronted him and the boy. The kid swore he didn’t rape her… that they went to the desert and had sex and that she was trying to blackmail him or something. I was suspicious at first, but then, Whitmore starts talking about how his kid was an honor student and on the football team, well-known around school. While we were talking, the kid’s girlfriend shows up—gorgeous little blonde thing that shouldn’t have been in high school! It’s illegal the way these girls look—like grown women! And their mothers don’t have the good sense to make them put on some damn clothes!” Well, that’s new—an asshole with some morals.
“Anyway, one look at that Carly girl and I thought there’s no way this kid would have raped Ann. Rich, good-looking, popular kid with a hot little girlfriend is taking this poor little dusty nobody to the desert to rape her? Come on, man…” He finishes his drink and gestures for another. My blood is boiling.
“So, you took the word of some stranger over your stepdaughter because he had money and a hotter girlfriend? Did you expect the lecherous little dick to wave his hands and openly admit to it?” Is this guy for real? He suddenly turns to glare at me.
“I’m not going to let you sit here and put me in judgment for this shit. I’ll tell you what I know, but you are not going to cut me down for my decisions. Whether they were right or wrong, you don’t get to judge me, and I don’t give a fuck who you are, Mr. Grey!” You have to admire the man—he’s got a pair. I respect his chutzpah, but that’s all I respect about this guy.
“By any chance, did you take a look at Anastasia when you left that day? Did you pay any attention to her behavior after that day?” I ask, coldly. He shrugs.
“I was pissed that she was trying to pull me into this—whatever game she was playing with Whitmore. I wasn’t paying any attention to her. She was always kind of a quiet kid, but if you’re asking if I noticed a broken little girl that turned into a recluse because she had been raped and nobody believed her, no! I didn’t notice that!” He’s very sarcastic, spitting the words at me as he knew exactly where I was going.
“Listen, you sarcastic worthless piece of shit. I already have enough information to ruin the lives of a whole lot of Green Valley’s good citizens, including you. My only reason for speaking to you today is to try to understand the mechanics of this situation because I already have my primary targets! To say that I’m losing my patience with you would be a lie. My patience for you was gone before I even took a seat. I want to try to fill in some blanks, but I don’t fucking need to sit here and listen to your shitty ass attitude because you don’t want anybody drawing conclusions about your feeding a young girl to the dogs! Contrary to how you feel I should judge this situation Mr. Morton, I do hold you responsible for what happened to Anastasia. Now, are you going to talk to me with some manners and behave like a good little boy, or do I take my wads of cash and go?” Almost on cue, Taylor takes out another ream of bills and places it in front of me on the bar. Morton reaches for the first ream that I placed in front of him.
“Touch those bills before I tell you that this transaction is concluded and my bodyguard here will break your fucking arm… assuming that the one at the door doesn’t shoot you first.” His hand freezes midair and he turns to see Lawrence sitting at a table near the door watching him.
“Are you mafia or something?” he asks, his voice unsure. Are you kidding me?
“Why would I tell you that?” I spit. “Are you a slimy little man that marries divorcees then effectively sells their daughters’ virginity to young violent rich pricks with hot girlfriends?” His shoulders deflate at this statement. Fuck the kid gloves; this asshole is getting on my nerves. I just want to see if he can fill in any blanks for me. As I can see that he’s duly chastised, I continue with my questioning.
“How soon after your meeting with Whitmore was Anastasia attacked?” I ask through my teeth. He pauses to think.
“I don’t know… a couple of weeks, maybe. Not too long,” he answers.
“And let me guess—you had your head stuck so far up your ass that you never thought the two could have been connected,” I sneer.
“I was sure that they were connected. That’s how I got the money from Whitmore,” he says. What the fuck!? It’s very hard to maintain the CEO impassive face right now.
“Elaborate,” I say, placing the second set of bills in front of him. He licks his lips and bottoms out his drink, gesturing for another one. Good Lord, his liver must be pickled.
“When Carla called and told me that Ann was in the hospital and she had been beaten, my mind went immediately to Whitmore. I went to the hospital and saw her beaten all to hell and I was scared, okay? I didn’t know if she was going to die or wake up and start talking or what the hell was going to happen. The doctors told us that she had lost her baby. I didn’t even know that she was pregnant. Something changed in Carla that day. She sat there by Ann’s bed for three days not saying anything. On the fourth day, she left the hospital and only came back a few more times to check on her before Ann woke up.” So basically, Ana woke up all beat to hell in a hospital, alone. No doubt, she thought they blamed her for what happened to her and she still feels that way. No doubt, they did blame her for what happened.
“When she woke up, she didn’t remember anything that happened. She didn’t even remember being pregnant.” That’s because she didn’t know, you asshole. “Once she was released from the hospital, Raymond came and got her. He said he would take care of her if Carla allowed him. They went off to Washington somewhere and that’s when I approached Whitmore.”
He approached Whitmore? All this time, I thought it was the other way around.
“I told him how much of a coincidence it was that my daughter had been beaten so badly on the Madison Ranch weeks after she accused his honor-roll son of raping her.” The Madison Ranch! Carly fucking Madison!
“How do you know it was the Madison Ranch?” I ask coolly.
“You hear things. It was the Madison Ranch,” he says. The alcohol seems to be getting to him a bit. He’s starting to sound a little maudlin. I better get everything out of him that I can before he’s a useless mound on the bar.
“Madison, as in Carly Madison—Cody’s hot little blonde girlfriend?” I ask. He nods, still looking into his drink.
“I brought that to his attention, that it all seemed so strange that nobody had any information about what happened to her, but the cops found her on the Madison Ranch a couple of weeks after she accused his son of rape. I mentioned that they did a rape kit because of the violence of the act and that even though it came back that she had not been raped that night that they kept the embryo and could run DNA if Ann were to give them a suspect.”
“They had to know that meant nothing. That just means that Cody got her pregnant—it didn’t mean that he had anything to do with her attack,” I point out.
“Apparently, they didn’t know that—or they were too frightened or too nervous to think about that. All of this stuff put together gives the police probable cause…” Except the police had their own reasons for not pursuing the matter. “… That was enough to take to Whitmore. I originally went for answers. Ann was gone, and Carla had changed. People were looking at us like some circus side show. Yeah, the community was shaken since everybody claimed not to know what happened. But hell, I had to go outside of the city just to buy a bar of soap! It was fucking ridiculous.” I guess not as ridiculous as a young girl being beaten nearly to death and never seeing justice.
“What happens next?” I keep my voice flat. Morton is still throwing back gin and tonics like water.
“Whitmore tells me that he needs some time to talk to his kid and find out how true this shit could be. I thought I had lost my meal ticket. About a month later, he comes to me telling me that we had a deal, but I had to get Ann back to Nevada so that we could be sure that she wouldn’t talk. Carla and I had a terrible fight about that. She didn’t want Ann to come back. She wanted her to stay in Washington with Ray so that they both could have some kind of normal life,” he says.
“Ray and Ana?” I ask.
“Carla and Ann,” he corrects me. “She talked about how young she was when she had Ann and how it basically ruined her whole life and now that Ann was gone and Carla was still somewhat of a young woman, she could have a life now. Carla was being accepted into some of the social circles before this shit happened with Ann, and she was fighting to get back what little standing that she had with the snobs of Green Valley. Ann had picked up where she left off in Montesano, so according to Carla it was working out for everybody… except for me, that is.” He’s taking another swallow of his drink and I am getting sicker and sicker listening to this man.
“What finally convinced Carla to bring Ana back here?” I ask.
“The money… and the fact that I wouldn’t let up on it. We showed up at Ray’s and told Ann that it was time to go home. That was the fight from hell. Although Ray had given Ann his name, he never adopted her, and he wasn’t on her birth certificate, so he didn’t have any legal rights. Just like I couldn’t force Ann to come to Nevada, Ray didn’t have any rights to fight for her to stay in Washington. Ann begrudgingly came back to Nevada and she was an unbearable little shit from the moment she got there.”
“Fuck! Wouldn’t you be?” I spit before I could stop myself. “Just consider this just for a second. You’re a young girl and you’ve been raped, and nobody believes you. Two or three weeks after you’ve been raped, you’re brutally beaten by unknown assailants in the community in which you live. You manage to escape the community only to have the people that should be protecting you come and get you from your safe haven and bring you back to hell! How would you feel, Mr. Morton? Erase that whole money thing you’ve got going on and the fact that you had to go to Walmart in Sunrise Manor instead of Green Valley and consider for a moment how that young girl must have felt. Think for one second—just for one fucking second—that she may have been telling you the truth about what happened to her! That she was the undeserving victim of a violent crime twice in one month and you sold her like a piece of cattle!”
“I know that she was telling the truth.” He has the nerve to have a little shame in his voice… and again, I’m shocked.
“How did you know?” I spit.
“He was too willing to pay me off. He was too willing to shut me up. He would have given me anything that I asked for, I knew it. I asked for 750 and he agreed immediately. I did plan on giving some to Ann, but she acted so fucked up when she got back…” He trails off.
“That you decided to punish her further,” I finish, steam coming off my forehead. He doesn’t respond.
“I probably could have gotten some money from that Madison kid, too, but I didn’t want to press my luck,” he mutters.
“What happened after she came back here?” I spit, seething.
“Nothing. She went to school in Vegas. She got a job. She was never home. Her mother and I rarely saw her and when we did, she was aloof on good days and a terror on bad ones. Carla stopped dealing with her completely.” Neither one of you would have had to deal with her if you had left her in peace in Montesano with Ray.
“Any idea why nobody was ever arrested or even questioned about this?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Maybe somebody paid off the cops, too. That one cop kept coming around asking if Ann remembered anything, but she didn’t.”
“Oh, she did. She remembered everything,” I say. A look of pure horror comes over his face. “She remembers being attacked from behind, thrown into the trunk of a car, dragged naked to a bonfire, and being brutally beaten and burned with no idea as to why this was happening to her! As I listen to this atrocity—this complete and utter travesty of justice—I can’t believe that something like this could happen in 21st century America! This has the look and smell of the brutal lynchings of the 50’s and 60’s. I can’t believe something this monstrous could still be happening in my lifetime! If I hadn’t seen it unfold with my own eyes, I would believe this was the conspiracy theory of a sick mind running around with a tin-foil hat! I hope you got your money’s worth!” I say, pushing the bills into his face and standing to leave.
“This is not my fault!” he defends, and I walk pass him. “I didn’t rape her, and I certainly didn’t tell her to go swinging her ass around some young kid! These young girls are out here being prick teases and then want to scream rape when they are expected to deliver!” I realize this is probably the alcohol talking… or maybe he’s just being an asshole again. Unfortunately for him, my fist can’t tell the difference when it makes a clean connection with his face, sending him sailing out of the barstool and landing on the sticky saloon floor. I stand over him as he is lying on his back holding his jaw.
“Now you get to know the importance of who I am. I’m in love with Anastasia. I hope that one day in the future, she’ll consent to be my wife, and spend the rest of her life with me. I plan to bring down every single person involved in her attack. I plan to have Whitmore and his snide little rapist son begging me to release my clutches from them, which by the way, I won’t. I haven’t decided what you deserve yet. I do know this… that little comment just cost you one.” I take one of the stacks of bills from the bar and throw it over my shoulder to Taylor without looking. I have absolutely no doubt that he caught it.
“You fucking asshole!” Morton shoots, trying to get off the floor.
“Do you want it to cost you both?” I say glaring at him. Morton purses his lips so tightly that it almost looks painful. “My regards to your wife!” I sneer as Taylor, Lawrence and I leave the bar.
I just about have my plan in place, but I hate having to depend on this asshole Bob. I’m still not sure if I really trust him, but so far, he’s come through with everything that I need so I don’t have much of a choice. As long as I keep syphoning money to him, I can buy his help and loyalty, but I don’t doubt for a second that he would sell me out to the highest bidder—even Grey if Bob wasn’t so pissed with him.
I’m ready to get things moving. I’m normally a patient man, but I’m not sure that I can be without my Rosie for one more minute.
“We have a development,” Bob says coming into the house.
“Grey is out of town until Friday night. If we want to move on this, we probably want to do it before he gets back. Not much he can do from a distance, but it’s going to be all hell when he gets back.” I couldn’t care less about that fucking Rich Boy as long as I can get to my Rosie, but Bob’s right—it’ll be easier if he’s not around to influence her in any way.
“Friday, then, before Grey gets back. You’ll take care of her guard,” I confirm.
“Friday it is, then,” he nods. One more day, Rosie. Just one more day.
Christian and I were both completely exhausted when he Skyped me last night. Not only had we both had terribly trying days, but it was after 11:00 when he finally got a chance to call me. I know that he bought a beautiful new desk and filing cabinet for the library for me and I was pleasantly surprised when I got back to Escala this evening. It was wonderful not to have to use the small table that I had commandeered for my laptops and files—and I had somewhere to put important documents. He’s such a wonderful man. He doesn’t make room for me in his life—he makes sure that there is room for me in his life, which is completely different. I told him about my visit to Helping Hands and my breakthrough with Marlow. He informed me about tracking down one of Whitmore’s shady business deals that’s making him more and more certain that he won’t be doing business with Whitmore.
Thank fuck for that!
I ask Christian when he will be home tomorrow and he informs me that it’s looking more like late afternoon or early evening than tomorrow night as he had originally planned. That makes me happy as my soul is aching for him. Even though we’re both too tired for Cyberplay, he still stays on Skype with me until I fall asleep.
Friday, I’m refreshed and ready to face my day, thrilled beyond thrilled that my man will be home this afternoon. I see my regular Friday patients and I’m sitting at my desk when my iPhone rings. It’s Ray.
“Hey, Dad. How are you?” I answer the phone. Maybe he’s coming down for the weekend again. I’m wondering if I should introduce him to Christian. Is he ready for that? Hell, he introduced me to Mandy.
“Hey, Annie. You got a minute?” Oh hell, please don’t ask me if you can marry Mandy. I’m all for happily ever after but give me a chance to absorb the whole Dad’s got a girlfriend thing before we start hearing wedding bells.
“Sure. What’s up?” I brace myself.
“What do you hear about Green Valley these days?” Green Valley!? What the hell!?
“Absolutely nothing!” I spit, Whitmore’s name bubbling up in the back of my throat like bile. Why in the hell is Green Valley rearing its head at me right now? “Why do you ask me that? What do you hear about Green Valley these days?”
“Well, I got a call from Carla this morning.” I gasp.
“What the fuck does C… I’m sorry, Dad. What does Carla want?” I spit. Why the hell is this woman calling my father?
“I was wondering the same thing. She called me trying to find out if I had someone down there looking into that incident that happened to you all those years ago. I have no clue what she’s talking about. She told me that there’s some suit down there asking questions about your attack. You know how I hate talking to that woman.”
“Dad, I need you to tell me exactly what you’re talking about because right now I’m a little clueless.” Somebody is digging into Green Valley again? What the hell? Why can’t this nightmare just fucking die already?
“Some guy cornered Carla’s husband in a bar. She said the guy roughed him up to get information out of him about your attack. I don’t know how true that is since Stephen is heavy on the bottle these days, but Carla says he came back bruised and beaten talking about some guy named Grey digging into the… situation.”
“What the hell? What do you mean? I know that he went down there, and I know that he was talking to Whitmore…” And then the light bulb goes off. The last time someone was asking questions in Green Valley, Christian was doing a background check and where is Christian now—in Nevada!
“Who is this guy and why is he in Nevada? And who is Whitmore?” Ray has gone many years without any answers to these questions. Now I think the chickens are coming home to roost.
I sink back in my chair and tell my father everything about Green Valley—the rape, Stephen’s unsuccessful confrontation of the Whitmores, what I remembered about the beating. Ray falls deathly silent listening to me tell the horrifying tale that was the last two years of my childhood. I informed him that Christian was the one that initiated the background check that scared me half to death, and why he did it. I think I knock the wind out of him when I tell him that Christian and I are now dating.
“You’re dating again? I think that’s wonderful.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I respond, less than enthusiastic.
“What’s wrong, Annie?” Ray presses. I sigh.
“He lied to me, Dad. He told me that he was going to see Whitmore about K&R Insurance. He knew the whole time why he was going down there to talk to that snake, and he lied to me.” Some Mistress I am! I can’t get him to tell me the truth about something so vital… we’re just playing games here. Of course, I didn’t ask him about this in Domme mode… it might have turned out differently—but that’s beside the point. “I asked him not to pursue this… and he said that he wouldn’t. Now he’s down there stirring this pot all over again.” I put my hand on my forehead. This shit will never just die, will it?
“He must care about you a lot to single-handedly try to find out what happened to you,” Ray points out.
“Dad, you don’t understand. The cornerstone of our relationship is trust. It’s extremely important.” More important than even you know, Ray. “If we can’t trust each other, we simply can’t continue.” I’m fighting back the tears that are threatening my eyelids. “I have to be able to trust that he’s truthful with me and he needs that same guarantee from me.” I sigh. “I gotta go, Dad.”
“Annie, before you make any rash decisions, just hear him out, okay? I don’t know this guy, but if he’s willing to take on a town to find out what happened to my daughter, then he’s okay in my book.”
“I will, Dad. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Annie.” I hang up the phone and resist the urge to scream. I snatch my purse and phone and breeze out the door, telling Marilyn that our day is over. Chuck is nearly running, trying to keep up with me. I get to elevator and punch the floor before he can catch me. I’m not trying to get away from him, I just need to get the hell out of here. He must be wearing Mercury’s winged shoes because he is on the ground floor before the elevator gets there.
“Ana?” he questions, but I just run past him and out the door to my car. He’s hot on my tail in the Audi as I break several traffic laws to get to my apartment. I’m damn near out of my car before it stops moving to get to the elevator. I stop Chuck before he gets in.
“I need to be alone. You don’t have to leave, but right now, I need to be alone.” I say, fighting back angry tears.
“Let me ride up with you and I’ll stand outside. Is that okay?” he bargains. I nod. We ride up the elevator in silence and I dash to my apartment once the doors open, slamming and locking the door behind me. He can’t be down there doing this…he can’t be. After the whole ordeal we had last week… he couldn’t possibly betray my trust this way. I feel like my chest is going to cave in on me. There must be some mistake. Someone is mistaken—that’s what it is. If Christian had gone to Green Valley, George would have called me. I’ll call George. He’ll know what this is about.
My heart sinks when I get George on the phone and he doesn’t want to talk to me.
“Why would I want to talk to you once you sent your dogs after me after all of this?” George says.
“I have no idea what’s going on, George. I just got a call from my dad. What’s happening?” I yell. After a pause,
“You really don’t know, do you?” George asks incredulously.
“No, I don’t! Every time something happens, you call me. Why didn’t you call me this time?” I bark.
“Because he threatened me! He told me that if I called you that there would be problems for me. So, whoever you tell him that you heard this from, you didn’t hear it from me. Are we clear?”
“You got it, but you have to tell me what’s going on.”
George proceeds to tell me that Christian is down in Green Valley questioning anybody and everybody that he can get his hands on to find out what happened with my attack. I can’t believe what I’m hearing since I asked him not to pursue this matter.
“He said he wouldn’t do it,” I say, my voice squeaking. “I told him not to dig this up. I told him to leave this alone!”
“Well, you need to call him off,” George says. “He’s making a lot of people nervous and angry down here.” What the hell? He must’ve forgotten to whom he’s speaking!
“Well, they should be nervous!” I exclaim. “They beat me, and they burned me. And you may not know this, but one of them raped me—and that’s why I was beaten and burned!”
“Well, why didn’t you say any of this!?” George exclaims, horrified and something in me snaps.
“Because I told one person—one person, my stepfather—that I got raped and look what happened to me. What happens if I tried to take him to court? My word against his… a poor girl who happens to live in a nice Green Valley house against a Whitmore. I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if I had identified anybody from the mob that tortured me, not that I really could since the fucking cowards all wore masks and only one of them spoke to me. Oh, they could all beat the shit out of me, but none of them could fucking say shit to me.
“But now the tables have turned—and those pompous, self-absorbed, entitled, rich little brats are now dealing with someone who has just as much money and power as they do if not more. This man owns more companies than they have vacation houses. Now, they’re shaking in their boots because they’re dealing with one of the most powerful men in America now trying to get to the bottom of who attacked me 11 years ago.”
“Well, you’re going to have to do something, Ana, because he’s getting pretty close.” I fall silent for a moment. What the hell does he mean by that?
“Getting pretty close?” I ask. “Close to what, George?” George remains silent. “George, close to what?” Still silence on the line. And then it hit me. Mother fucking demons and bitches from hell! George knows something. “George, what do you know?”
“Ana, I don’t know anything,” he says, flatly.
“Don’t give me that, George!” I spit, my voice shaking. “If you didn’t know anything, you wouldn’t have said that he’s getting close. You’ve kept in touch with me all these years…” And the other shoe drops. He kept in touch with me to see if I was doing anything on the case, to see if I had gotten any closer to finding out who attacked me. He always needed to know what I knew; and when anyone went digging into my past, he knew that I would do anything in my power to stop them to keep the Lambert/Steele saga under wraps. He knew that I didn’t want that to be public knowledge. So even though the law says that I had to be notified of any developments in the case, I didn’t have to be notified personally. George has a personal stake in this. All this time, I thought he was doing this for me—but he’s not. There’s something else. I feel so fucking betrayed!
“George, I think you better give me any information that you have, because if you don’t, I’m going to set the full fury of Christian Grey loose on Green Valley. And if you think feathers have been ruffled now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Buddy!” I hear a long pause. “Don’t think about it too long, George, because I am out of patience.”
George sighs heavily before telling me, “Vince was out past curfew the night that you were attacked, and Mom called me at the station. I hated chasing that little bugger down, but I had to find him so that Mom could get some sleep. He knew that we had installed the tracking system in his car in case of theft or car trouble, and the idiot still took his own car.”
“What does your little brother have to do with me?” I say, impatient and confused. George sighs again.
“When I found Vince’s car, he was at a bonfire. When I went to the bonfire, everybody scattered like roaches, so I couldn’t see who all was present… but I knew my brother’s car was there. I don’t know all the details, but when everybody left, Vince’s car was still there. I really believe that he thought he was at a harmless bonfire and he took off somewhere to get laid or something. I don’t know if he was there when everything was going down—he swears that he wasn’t there, and he had nothing to do with it… I had to protect my little brother, Ana…”
Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing!?
“Wait! Wait! Wait a minute!” I yell. I feel cold, pure, undiluted horror rise from my stomach, into my chest, and start to take over my thought processes. I have to fight to form my words as my brain-to-mouth functions seem to be failing. “Are you telling me that the same bonfire where you found your brother’s car is the same bonfire where they were mutilating my body?” George is silent for a moment.
“Yes,” he says, solemnly. “I had to know if any information would lead to my brother. He swore that he had nothing to do with it, Ana, but if I pursued anybody, I would have had to pursue Vincent, too.” I’m feeling a little dizzy hearing this story. I fall onto the sofa simply because my legs can’t hold me up anymore.
“You know who did this to me, don’t you, George?” I say with as much conviction as I could muster. He pauses… he’s stalling again.
“I’m not 100% sure, Ana…”
“Don’t fucking play with me, George!” I snap. My wits are at their complete end and I can’t take many more secrets at this point.
“I recognized some of the cars there, Ana. I can’t say for sure who all was there—but I knew some of the cars. But just like Vince claims that he had nothing to do with it, they could claim that they were just in the area, too. I know Vince, Ana. He’s not that kid and he’s not that man.”
“But you know who was there. And you know that some of the people that were there were that kid…” George has fallen silent again. “… and you just let them go?” Still no answer. “You found me! You saw what they did to me! You know the whole story. How could you just let them go?” I say, my voice quivering.
“I tried, Ana,” he says, desperation in his voice. “I tried to pursue them the best that I could, but somebody knew that Vincent was there. Every time I went to go investigate a lead, I got a threat against Vincent. Ever since my father died, my mother made me swear to protect him… I had to protect him Ana… I had to…” His voice trails off.
Was the entire world against me? I was the victim. I was the one that was raped, beaten, and burned. Was everybody against me? Did I have no one in my corner? Not my parents? The school? The community? The owner of the ranch where I was tortured? Not even the fucking police? Would the doctors there have even bothered to try to save my life if they hadn’t been bound by the Hippocratic oath? This can’t be real. This absolutely, positively can’t be real. Who did I piss off in a past life to deserve this kind of treatment? At 15, no less?
“I could’ve died, George. I could’ve died out there. Did you see what they did to my back? Those weren’t just burns, George. Those were brands! I still have the word on my back!” There is a sharp intake of air on the other end of the line. Apparently, George never knew that the burns were actually a word.
“Ana… I…” Yeah, I would be at a loss for words, too, you bastard.
“You let an entire community of brutal bullies get away with damn-near killing me—with murdering an unborn child—to protect your brother, and you’re not even certain that he didn’t have anything to do with it. Are you proud of that, Officer Sullivan?” I spit the last two words at him. I know he can’t respond to me. What can he say to that?
“I was raped, Officer Sullivan,” I say, flatly. I hear an almost inaudible groan on the other end. Yeah, I know. I didn’t tell anybody but dear-old-pretend-Dad, and look where that got me. So of course, you didn’t know. “I was raped by the son of one of Green Valley’s upstanding well-off citizens. And when I told my stepfather and we went to confront my accuser, he denied it. He said it was consensual. He told his girlfriend that I lied on him, and she told her friends, and they told their friends, and the next thing I know, I’m being dragged naked from the trunk of a car to be beaten and burned by hooded strangers.
“The only reason I was able to connect the two incidents is because one—only one—of my attackers spoke to me and told me why this was happening to me… and I recognized her voice. They spit on me; they laughed at me; they urinated on me. I remember every slap, every kick, and every punch. Thank God I only remember one burn, because I passed out from the pain—and woke up in the hospital three-weeks later. The doctors told me that I had been attacked and that I had lost my rapist’s baby—a baby I didn’t even know I was carrying. I tried to get away, and even my parents couldn’t afford me that luxury.
“I’ve had so many nightmares about that night that right now, here in the state of Washington, I hold a license to carry a concealed weapon and I own three firearms. I’m wondering where in the world these people are and if I’ll ever have to see them again—not that I saw any of them the first time, but they would sure as hell know who I was when they saw me.” The tears are falling freely down my face as I spit the words at him.
“Now you know the full extent of my nightmare, but I am so glad that you were able to sleep soundly at night knowing that you protected your brother from such a horrible fate. Goodbye, Officer Sullivan, and good luck with Christian Grey.” I end the call. I stand up from the sofa, walk to my room, bury my face in my pillow, and scream until I have no voice.
It’s about 11:00am on Friday morning and I’m only too ready to get the fuck out of Nevada. My bags are packed, and I’m checking out of the Bellagio. I can’t wait to be back in my Butterfly’s arms. With all the shit that I’ve learned being down here and all the new leads I now must follow, I don’t know how these people have been able to live with themselves. I would be just as outraged by this action if it had not been the woman that I love. How could this happen? The entire community conspired against her and she never found justice. Well, that shit is over now. I’ll take her to dinner tonight at Rover’s and tell her everything. It’s not going to be easy, but I don’t want to keep any more secrets from her and I want her to know that we can now bring these bastards to justice.
We’re on our way to McCarran when I realize that I’ve settled affairs with everyone except one person in particular. All the parties involved that have met me pretty much know where they stand—except for one person.
“Taylor, contact Sean and McCarran and let him know we will be slightly delayed. Williams, we’re making a detour…”
Security at this place sucks and if this ever happened at GEH, I would fire an entire department full of people. But I strut right into the work area of Daddy’s Little Boy, and my determined stride along with the two CIA-looking gentlemen assured that we had the attention of everyone in the office.
“I know who you are, and I know what you did. I’m going to make you pay for it. And not Mommy, Daddy, the Governor, or the fucking President is going to be able to save your ass,” I say glaring down at him in his seat.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cody Whitmore responds, not making eye contact with me.
“I’m sure you do!” I bark. “Or after all these years have you finally convinced yourself that it was consensual? Have you rewritten the story to make yourself believe that she wanted it? Did Daddy’s little payoff make you think rape would go away? Did the fact that you and a mob of hooded cowards have been able to frighten her into silence for a couple of years make you think that you would never have to face this again? She was 15, you sick fuck—15! And you and a heartless bunch of animals beat her damn near to death because she didn’t want to fuck you!”
I can hear various people mention Ana’s name. Yeah, the story is still alive and well in Green Valley. The Golden Boy here has finally been forced to see the levity of his actions. I can see the fear in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he speaks.
“You got it all wrong, man. Girls say ‘no’ all the time when they really mean ‘yes.’ You know that…” he protests.
Oh no the fuck he’s not trying to convince me that Ana wanted him to screw her in the back of his jeep and dump her in the middle of the desert after he has clearly admitted that she said, “no.” I try very hard to swallow the bile that’s rising in the back of my throat seasoned with the flavor of sheer contempt for this man as I stare coldly into his eyes and say:
“Go back into the recesses of that sick, twisted, fucked up mind of yours—back to that place where you won’t let anybody else go and you’re afraid to go yourself—and recall that fateful day that’s about to change the rest of your miserable fucking life. Recall that day that you have no doubt recalled hundreds of times between then and now. Look at her face. Look at it good. Observe her carefully—observe her screaming and crying and most likely begging you to stop while you forcibly ripped her virginity from her and try to tell me that she wanted it. Go ahead… try!” I growl that last word at him and I’m willing the words to come out of his mouth as I would like nothing more than to kill him… right here… right now.
The office has fallen completely silent… even the phones have stopped ringing. Whitmore has turned a sick shade of greenish-gray as I glare at him and wait for him to speak.
“The only good thing that came from this whole ordeal is that she lost your baby in the process.” His face goes from gray to flaxen white with this news. “Oh, you didn’t know. Yeah, she was pregnant. And thank God that she doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life raising a reminder of your sick ass, but what’s more is that I can sleep a little better at night knowing that your ass hasn’t procreated!” At that moment, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Without turning around, I say, “Since I haven’t laid my hands on this man, this had better be my bodyguard with his hand on my shoulder, because if it’s not, you’re about to have a bevy of attorneys on your ass.”
The hand quickly moves from my shoulder as simultaneously I hear Taylor’s voice say, “It’s not me, Sir.” I turn around to look into the familiar face of one Officer George Sullivan.
“Sullivan! You have got to be kidding me! They sent you?” I say with disgust.
“Mr. Grey, this is private property. You’ll have to leave,” he says, flatly.
“Are you the only cop in Green Valley? Is that why this whole thing has been swept under the rug all these years? Is that why the police department has failed to do their job and has allowed a group of teenage murderers to roam the street? Is that why Anastasia was made to suffer the physical and emotional pain and humiliation all these years? All to protect one person? All to protect Vincent?” I shoot. Sullivan is now turning the greenish-gray shade I previously witnessed on Whitmore’s face. “Oh, yes. I know all about it. You didn’t think I’d find out?”
“Mr. Grey, you need to leave,” he repeats, his voice shaking, and now I step to him.
“That’s fine. I have everything that I need now. And I’ve already warned you, I’ll pick this little piece of shit town apart until I get to every single person who is responsible for what happened to Ana—including your little brother.” I spit. I throw a look back at a sickly-looking Cody Whitmore and then make an announcement to the office.
“Congratulations, citizens of Green Valley. Your little city is about to be the most popular place on the map…” I look from Whitmore to Sullivan, “… again!” With that, Taylor, Lawrence, and I walk out of the office.
Las Vegas is a beautiful city full of color and lights. People come from all over the world to visit the Oasis in the Desert—Sin City—What happens in Vegas… you know the rest. Money is spent, and drinks are flowing, good food and gambling. There’s something for every taste in Vegas… and yet, I can imagine that the people that live there must be pretty miserable. Yes, it’s an oasis in the desert, but it’s just that… a desert! A barren land with barren people who muddle about in their barren lives. The only thing I found pleasant about Las Vegas… was leaving.
When we landed at McCarran Airport in Nevada two days ago, I couldn’t help but notice the view and wonder how it was possible for people to live there. All I saw was brown… dirt and sand. Gray buildings, no life. There were tall buildings off in the distance, but there seemed to be nothing vibrant anywhere. Nothing but desert…
Landing at SeaTac this beautiful early afternoon, I’m greeted with Puget Sound and the wonderful Pacific Ocean. Rows of coastal houses and businesses on beautiful green grassy hills surrounded by trees in full bloom. Here was a scene that spoke life when you saw it… and I’ve never been so happy to be home.
It’s about 2:30 Seattle time when we land, and I immediately take out my Blackberry and call Butterfly. Her phone rings, then go to voicemail. It’s odd for her to have Friday afternoon appointments and that’s the only time that she doesn’t answer her phone. Maybe she’s doing something with Grace at Helping Hands. I send her a text so that she’ll see it as soon as she’s free.
**Back home in Seattle. Can’t wait to hold you in my arms. Love you. **
Lawrence and Williams are putting our bags in the SUV when Taylor comes to my side. “Sir, I think there may be a problem.”
“A problem with what?” I ask, my eyebrows furrowed.
“Ms. Steele. I got a text from Chuck that just says, ‘something is wrong with Her Highness.'”
“Well, did you ask him what was wrong?” I bark. What the fuck is going on?
“Yes, but he doesn’t know. And this text is time stamped at 12:18… while we were in the air,” he responds.
“Shit,” I say, scrambling to get into the SUV. That’s why she’s not answering her phone. I pull out my blackberry to check my texts. Nothing. “What else did he say?” Taylor is scrolling through his texts.
“She left the office very upset and went back to her apartment…”
“Her apartment?” I ask.
“Yes, sir, her apartment. She told Chuck to wait outside, but she went inside alone and locked her door. I’m waiting to see what else he says.”
“Williams, get us to Ms. Steele’s apartment. Quickly please.” What the hell has happened now?
“Wait!” Taylor exclaims, and Williams pauses. “She’s back at Escala. Still very upset, but Chuck doesn’t know why.” I run my hands through my hair.
“Get me home. Now!” I order, and Williams proceeds towards Escala. She was fine when I talked to her last night. What the hell happened? “Did Chuck say that anybody came to see her at the office?”
“No, sir, but I didn’t ask. I’ll ask him now.” I don’t want to alarm anyone trying to find out what’s wrong with Butterfly, but it is taking everything in me not to call every one of her friends and find out if someone has spoken to her today. “No unusual visitors, sir. She had two appointments this morning and was staying in the office to do some work. Suddenly, she got up and left. Chuck had to run to keep up with her and ran several red lights following her to the apartment. So, we’ll probably be getting some traffic tickets.”
“I don’t give a fuck about traffic tickets. I’m trying to find out what’s wrong with Ana.” The ride from SeaTac to Escala is only 20 minutes, but I swear it’s taking hours.
**Butterfly, please answer me. **
I’m racking my brain to figure out what’s wrong. If someone were hurt, she would have told Davenport. She wanted to be alone in her own apartment, and she locked him out. She’s upset about something, but nobody knows what it is, and from her behavior, she’s really upset.
“Sir… could she know?” Taylor asks.
“Know what?” I ask, bemused.
“Where we’ve been?” Could she?
“Who would have told her?” I ask. No one that we spoke to knew how to get in touch with her except…
“Sullivan?” Taylor suggests. It’s a possibility, but why would he tell her? He has more to lose by telling her than he would by keeping it a secret.
“That man was scared shitless. There’s no way he would have told her,” I say. Taylor shrugs.
“Maybe not, but I have a feeling that she knows,” he says, solemnly. I tell him to ask Davenport if there is any indication that Butterfly knows the details of our trip. Taylor confirms that there is no indication, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know.
After the longest ride in the world, I burst from the backseat of the Audi SUV and sprint to the elevator, leaving my security staff behind. When I walk into the apartment, Gail greets me like everything is just fine.
“Well, hello, Mr. Gr… Mr. Grey are you okay?” she asks, obviously taking in my demeanor.
“Where is she?” I ask. Gail frowns.
“Who?” she asks bemused.
“Anastasia!” I bark.
“She’s here!?” Gail exclaims. I sigh heavily. I call Taylor who’s still in the parking garage waiting for the elevator. “I thought you said she was here!” I snap into the phone.
“She is. Her car is here, sir,” he says, calmly. I end the call and go through the apartment. This is a lot of space, but not that much, and I can’t find her—the bedroom, the library, my study, the playroom. I check the guest room and panic immediately when I see that most of her clothes are gone. Taylor is bringing in my bags when I come back out to the great room.
“Gail, did Ms. Steele take her things back to her apartment?” I ask, almost timidly. Taylor freezes in his spot.
“No, sir, she moved what she could fit to your closet on Wednesday,” she replies. I breathe a huge sigh and go to my closet to confirm that Butterfly’s clothes are still there.
Good. She hasn’t left me… but where is she?
“Sir?” Taylor’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “She’s on the balcony.” I quickly run to the balcony to see her standing there looking out over the city of Seattle, facing away from me, her arms folded. When I open the sliding door, she doesn’t move.
“Butterfly?” I say, stepping out onto the balcony.
“Hello Christian,” she says, her voice thick with tears. “How was your trip?”
A/N: Among his many titles Mercury was the Roman god of communication (the Greek is Hermes… and OMG here she goes with that damn mythology again!) He was also messenger to the gods, so he wore magical winged shoes that gave him super-godly speed.
You don’t want to miss Pinterest this time… that’s all I’m saying. http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/
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