She tried desperately to reason with herself. He needed her. He didn’t come here to hurt her. If he’d wanted to do that, he could have done it hours ago. This was about money. If she could just reason with him….
He sat in the chair across from her, the gun still pointed at her. “What?” His tone was sharp.
“You said you wanted money from the Newmans and the Abbotts, but how will they even know I’m with you? I mean are you gonna call them?”
“I’ll decide what I do and when I do it,” he snapped. “I don’t need any input from you. You just sit there and shut up and let me think.”
“I’m sorry,” she said softly, her eyes studying him. He was becoming more and more anxious as he sat there, almost as if the reality of the situation, of what he’d done, the potential ramifications were beginning to occur to him. She took a breath before speaking again. “Maybe I could help..I mean, I”
The change in his demeanor was immediate, as if he’d been lit up with rage from within. He jumped to his feet, pulling his tie from around his neck and barreling over towards her. “I told you to shut up,” he growled, struggling to fashion the tie around her mouth as a makeshift gag.
She pulled away. “Curtis, Please don’t…” His elbow made contact with her lower lip and she hissed, immediately tasting blood. She felt him still, his body suddenly more relaxed.
Her eyes were fearful as she looked up at him, but she was surprised to notice a surprising shift in his demeanor. He released his hold on her arm, reaching across the sofa and pulling several tissues from the box on the End table. There was a strange, foreign, almost gentle nature in the way he touched her as he carefully dabbed at her lip.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, his voice clearly sincere, his eyes showing his regret and his shame. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you..”
Curtis sighed. The sight of her trembling in front of him no longer made him feel powerful. There was no longer any justice in that. Causing her pain didn’t alleviate his, or Lise’s, or Luke’s. It was just more pain. “Stand up,” he softly commanded.
Phyllis rose to her feet, his sudden rush to anger moment ago still fresh in her mind. She was slightly hesitant but still obedient as she allowed herself to be guided across the room to the small kitchen area. He kept the gun pointed at her, but she watched with interest as he wrapped ice in a kitchen towel and gingerly handed it to her. “This should help keep the swelling down,” he said quietly. “When my son busted his lip, that’s what they….” He stopped himself, catching the look in her eyes.
“You have a son?”
“That’s not important right now. Go sit back down. I need to figure out my next step.”
Phyllis shook her head. “Your next step is obvious. You can’t do this. You have a son to think about.” She stood directly in front of him now, the barrel of the gun nearly touching her skin. This was a risk, but it was one she had to take. If she could reach him, if she could break him, her best shot was now. She’d seem a glimpse of humanity in him, in the way he’d cared for her, the gentle way he’d touched her. There was more to him than greed or corporate mind games.
“Curtis, look, right now the only thing that’s happened here is a conversation. As far as I’m concerned you came by, showed me your gun and we talked–end of story. We can both walk out of here, no harm, no foul.”
“I can’t do that,”
“You have to do that. You have a son. You don’t want him to have to visit his father in prison do you?”
Curtis grimaced. Luke wouldn’t have to visit him in prison. If he failed at this, he’d be the one visiting his sweet boy–in a cemetery. He couldn’t let that happen.
“You don’t know anything about this!” His anger was beginning to build again. “Now Im telling you for the last time–you go sit down and let me think.”
“That poor kid,” Phyllis muttered, walking slowly towards the couch, “it must suck to have a father that doesn’t even care enough about you to want to stay in your life.”
She didn’t even have time to process the feeling. She just knew her back was against the wall and she felt warm breath very close to her face. Curtis’ grip on her arm was borderline painful and she struggled against his imposing stature.
“You don’t know a damn thing about me, my kid, or my life. Now I’m gonna give you one more warning…keep your mouth shut.”
Phyllis nodded. “My arm” she whispered.
His grip loosened instantly, and she could see the look again. This wasn’t violence. This was desperation, fear, and something else she didn’t quite recognize.
She jumped as she felt him touch her, his hand carefully lifting the sleeve of her robe.
“Sorry,” he whispered. “I just…Did I hurt you?”
“No..you didn’t. You just scared me a little. That’s all.” This was bizarre to say the least. In one instant she was terrified, convinced he could truly hurt her, in the next moment he seemed so filled with regret that she’d swear he felt powerless over his own reaction.
“Here,” he said, handing her a glass of water.
She took it from his hand, realizing as she did that she smiled at him.
Billy walked off the elevator quickly. Early mornings were his favorite time of day for several reasons. First because Dave hated mornings and regularly sauntered in a bit late. These early hours gave Billy freedom from his burly babysitter. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Phyllis came in early every morning. She was in the office by 6:30 every morning come hell or high water–like clockwork.
He whistled a tune as he headed towards her door, carrying the tray with two extra hot lattes. “Phyllis,” he called as he rapped on the door. A confused look flashed across his face as he received no response. His hand pulled the knob to find the office locked tight and there was no light filtering from underneath. It would seem
Phyllis hadn’t been in at all today. Billy glanced at his watch 7:15. For her to be a few minutes late could be explained away by traffic or a late wake up, but this was strange…very strange.