She immediately took a step back, lifting her hands in front of her, as if somehow that small boundary would save her. “Curtis.” Her eyes quickly searched the room for her phone, finally seeing it on the counter across the room. “Curtis,” she repeated, her voice trembling, “I don’t understand. I don’t get what’s going on here.”
He was too angry to be upset, too filled with righteous indignation to be nervous. Instead a strange calm came over him as he held the gun, the weight of it almost grounding him, making him more in control than he’d felt in months. So many things in his life had been spinning out, leaving him feeling helpless to do anything…at least this was something he could control.
“Sit down and I’ll answer your questions.” Curtis watched her. Her could almost see her mind turning, the ideas and plans being vetted quickly as she stood there, so vulnerable in front of him.
“You don’t need to do this, Curtis. I don’t know what it is that you want or what it is that you need, but I can help you.”
“You don’t think I know that? That’s why you’re here. I know you can help me. You are the proverbial golden egg.”
“I don’t understand.” She felt sick, the reality of this beginning to settle in her stomach. This was real. This was happening. He wasn’t going to smile and laugh, apologizing for his bad taste and his off color humor. He was serious. Phyllis kept her eyes on him, her gaze focused primarily on the barrel of the gun that was trained on her.
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand. I wouldn’t expect you to know anything about me or my life. Why would you? Why would you concern yourself with my problems?” The more he talked the angrier he got.
“Listen…we can work this out, I promise, but we can’t do this here. This is my daughter’s apartment. She’ll be home soon.” She watched as his face grew dark, her feet moving back slowly as he advanced towards her, his expression cold and menacing.
Her daughter. It was words like that–simple expressions that people like her took for granted–they infuriated him. He stepped towards her, her slight cower only fueling his anger as he grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the couch. “I told you to sit down,” he growled, glancing down at her and releasing her arm. He took a step back, pointing the gun at her again.
Phyllis ran her hand over her arm, his grip strong enough to certainly cause a bruise. There was something so angry about him, so intense. The man that she’d once viewed as someone without the stomach to be a double agent was now holding her at gun point. “Please,” she said again, her voice softer this time, “I’ll go wherever you want. I just don’t want my daughter to walk in on this.”
“Would you shut up about your damn daughter!” Curtis drew in a breath watching her slink away from his explosion of emotion. He calmed a bit, “I know she’s out of town. Lying isn’t going to get you out of this. Nothing is.”
“You haven’t even told me what you want. I can’t help you if I don’t know what you want.”
“You don’t have to do anything. I don’t need you to follow anything. I just need you.” He could see the confusion on her face and he smiled. It was a nice change of pace to be the one with the answers.
She shifted away from him as he sat on the couch next to her. He pressed the gun lightly against her side, using his free hand to lightly guide her face towards his. “You still don’t get this do you?”
“I don’t,” she whispered, trying to move away from the feel of the gun against her skin. She looked at him. “Please…Please put the gun away.”
For a brief moment he almost considered it, the look of desperation in her eyes so visceral it nearly broke him. Until then he hadn’t noticed the emerald orbs, the way they sparkled, the sincerity behind them. This wasn’t his default. He didn’t enjoy this–inflicting fear on people..especially someone like her. Curtis blinked, shaking his head. Images of Luke flashed through his mind and he was buoyed once again.
“I can’t do that,” he said, any semblance of compassion he felt for her now sufficiently squashed. “You see I needed that money and now it’s over…I can’t work for Jack. I’ve lost my job at Newman. I’ve got nothing.”
His eyes stared into hers.
“Except you. I have you.”
“Me?” Phyllis stared at him, her mind reeling. None of this made sense.
“You got us caught. You’re gonna be the answer. See, you got Jack, you got Billy, you got Nick, who knows with a Newman kid you might have the whole damn Newman family–even the big man himself.”
Her eyes grew wider, the situation becoming more clear. “You’re going to…” She looked down at the gun and then back up at him. Her attempt at calm was over. It seemed to break inside of her as she felt the tears fill her eyes. Her breath caught in her throats as she attempted to steady herself, determined to make one more attempt to reach him.
“If it’s money you need, just let me give it to you. I have money. You don’t have to do this.” Her voice came faster now, the tremor in her voice becoming more pronounced. Her hands trembled as she reached out to him, trying to find the humanity in him. “Please.”
“You don’t have the kind of money I need, but the Abbotts do…the Newmans do. That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re gonna stay here…at least until they both pay up.”
Phyllis swallowed hard. “What if they don’t?”
Curtis leaned in close to her, “If they don’t, we’ll just have to find a way to make this a little more real….for everyone.”