Desperate Times pt 8

“Let’s go then.”  Billy moved quickly towards the door, stopping only when he realized no one was following behind him.  “What are you all doing just standing there?  We know where he’s keeping her?  We know she’s okay.”  He felt as if someone had their hands around his neck, his breath being shut off little by little with each passing second.  “For now,” he managed, looking at Nick in a desperate attempt to connect with him.  “We know she’s okay for now.  If we wait, who knows what will happen.  I for one don’t want to take the chance.”

Nick shuffled his weight from one foot to another.  He turned to look at Paul, his eyes questioning him.  All his life he’d watched his father take matters into his own hands.  Sometimes it was what needed to be done, but other times he’d watched people get hurt—even killed because of the bravado.  This wasn’t a call he ever wanted to make.  “What do you think, Paul?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure we have the luxury of time here.  I’d like to wait for another call, try to feel the situation out a bit more, but we don’t know enough about this guy to gauge how volatile he is.  I’m afraid waiting could put Phyllis in a lot of danger.”  His eyes fell on Billy’s, his tone growing more serious as he continued.  “We’re going over there, but we do this my way.  No one is playing a hero tonight, you got it?”

Billy nodded, feeling a slight sense of relief as he watched the team begin to move towards the doors.

~

“Curtis?” He’d been sitting in the chair with his head in his hands for nearly twenty minutes, not moving, not speaking.

“Yeah?” His lifted his head slowly, his eyes focusing on her.  She wasn’t at all what he’d expected.  She was supposed to be heartless and entitled, ruthless and arrogant, cold and distant.  That was what was supposed to make this justified.  He could do this bad thing for the best of reasons because he was taking from bad people, but now….

She wasn’t any of those things.  Looking at her now, he saw the compassion in her eyes, he heard the sincerity in her voice, and he knew she was about to offer to help him yet again.  Beyond that, she’d been strong and calm in a way he admired and her grace in a situation like that had forced him to realize the enormity of his mistake.

“It’s not too late to fix this.”  Her tone was calm and kind—just as he knew it would be.

“I wish it was that simple. If I could see a way to fix this…”

She stood up, walking over to the end of the couch and sitting closer to him.  “But there is…you just have to be willing to see it.  Just let me go and I swear, I’ll go and talk to my family.  We’ll get you the money your son needs.  They’re good people.  They’ll understand.”

“Not after this…not after what I’ve done.”

“Curtis, I swear—I can make them….”  The flash of lights was obvious against the pale walls of the apartment.  Though she tried not to react, she realized almost instantly that he’d seen them as well.

“Damn it,” he hissed, jumping up and immediately reaching for the gun.

“Curtis, don’t!”  Phyllis stood, walking in front of him.  “Please don’t do this.  You’re gonna get hurt.  Just put the gun down and I’ll talk to them.  I’ll explain everything.  We can all still walk out of here and everything will be okay, but not if they see you in here waving this gun around.”

He shook his head.  “I can’t…I can’t risk it.  They’ll arrest me.  They’ll take me to jail and then my son won’t get anything.  I’ll be completely useless to him then.”

“They’re gonna arrest you for sure if they find out you’re armed, Curtis.”  She grabbed his hands, trying to desperately to get through to him.  “Please…think about your son…your wife…think about them.  They wouldn’t want you to do this.  You don’t want to do this.”

“You’re right.”  The sorrow in his voice was evident as he stared down at her.  “I don’t want to do this, but I don’t have a choice.  I’ve got to get this money for my son.”

It happened before she even had a chance to respond.  His arm wrapped tight around her waist as she felt the gun press against her side.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, unable to look into her eyes.  “I don’t want to hurt you.  Just be still and quiet and I swear…I won’t hurt you.”

Phyllis swallowed hard as she nodded.  For the first time since this started, she was forced to consider the fact that this was real.  Curtis didn’t want to hurt her, of that she had no doubt, but how many times had she found herself doing things she didn’t want to do….She closed her eyes tight as she felt him leading her out onto the balcony.

~

“What the hell were you thinking?” Paul slammed his hands on the hood of the squad car as he stood in front of the rookie investigator.  “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

“I’m sorry, Chief…I wasn’t thinking…”

“That’s great,” Paul muttered.  “That’s just great.”

“Paul, Paul…”  Billy and Nick rushed up to him.

“There’s movement behind the curtains,” Billy said, the anxiety in his voice reaching near panic.  “I keep seeing a shadow.  “They must have seen the lights.”

Paul glared at the investigator.  “I’m sure they did.  I think for now, we just  hang back and wait and see what move he makes.  Chances are he’ll either contact us or he’ll show himself in some capacity.  At that point, we’ll have a much better idea of what we’re dealing with and how we need to proceed.”

“So we just wait….we just sit here and hope this maniac decides to play by the rules?”  He wanted to scream, to hit something—anything, but he couldn’t.  He had to stay calm and focused.  Phyllis needed him and he had to be here for her.  “And what if he doesn’t?  Then what?”

“Billy, I don’t have any answers for you right now.  I just think…”  Paul’s eyes went up to the balcony.  “What the hell…”  Billy and Nick followed his gaze and their eyes widened in horror as they saw Curtis standing with Phyllis, a gun pointed directly at her.

“I think we have our answer,” Paul said flatly before turning to the investigator.  “I need a megaphone,” he snarled.  “You think you can handle that?”

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Desperate Times pt 7

“Here,” Curtis held out the cup of tea to her.  “Phyllis, please..take it.”

“Thanks,” she said softly.

“You know it’s funny,” he said quietly.

She looked up.  “Funny? Yes, please tell me what you find remotely humorous about all this.”

“I don’t mean ha ha funny, I just mean it’s strange…it’s odd how you never really know what’s going on in other people’s lives.  We walk around and we watch other people and we think about how lucky they are to have that job, or to the married to that man or that woman, or to live in that house, or to be a member of that family, but we really have no idea of what’s really going on.  You never know until you’re in it…until you’re behind the doors.”

Phyllis sat silent for a moment, considering his words.  “I guess you’re right.  I would have never thought you were going to hold me at gunpoint for ransom.  Guess you never really know someone.”

She stood, walking across the room quickly.  She couldn’t sit still for long.  That gave her the chance to think and thinking gave her the opportunity to reflect on the sheer insanity of this situation.  The craziest part of all of it was that she almost understood why it was happening.  When she looked at Curtis, she didn’t see someone who was vengeful or trying to hurt someone, she saw a man who felt as if he had run out of options. She saw a man who was doing everything he could to save the life of his son.  She saw someone that, in another time, in another circumstance, she would have defended, a man she might have even liked.

Even as she thought through it all in her head, she realized how crazy it sounded.  This was a man that was threatening her with a loaded gun and yet she was justifying his actions.  She’d heard about this…some kind of weird kind of Stockholm Syndrome.  Jesus—maybe she really was going crazy.

Of course thinking about her own potential insanity was still far better and easier than thinking about how no one had called the number—how her entire family had decided she was unworthy of their time and money.

“Hey.”

She jumped, surprised by the contact.

Curtis quickly withdrew his hand.  “Sorry,” he muttered, stepping back a bit.  “I didn’t mean to startle you.  I just…I know you’re upset and I was thinking maybe it was about what you said earlier.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”  Phyllis turned away from him, pacing across the room again.

“You sure?” he said hesitantly.  “You got me to tell you my sob story and it looks like we might be here a while—it could at least pass the time?”

She whirled around, her hair whipping across her face.  “Is this some kind of game to you?” she snipped.  “Because it kind of seems like you think I should be looking at this like some kind of crazy ass retreat…like we should be playing truth or dare and card games.  This isn’t some slumber party, Curtis.  You’re keeping me here.  What you’re doing is a crime.  I don’t want to be here.”

Curtis closed his eyes.  Her words were harsh but true.  The choices he’d made had been serious.  This wasn’t something he was going to walk away from unscathed.  He’d known that the moment he’d made the decision, but he’d felt it was the only option.  “I know,” he said quietly.

And there it was again.  She crossed the room, sitting down on the couch.  “I don’t get you,” she said quietly.  “I mean I should be afraid of you.  For God’s sakes you’re holding a gun, but for some reason I know you’re not that guy.”

“You’re right.  I’m not.  I don’t want to hurt you.”

Phyllis nodded.  “If that’s true, Curtis.  I need you to put the gun down.”  She saw his head begin to shake.  “Please,” she said, placing her hand on his.  “I promise you I won’t go anywhere.  I’ll stay right here with you, but I can’t talk to you—we can’t have a conversation with you holding that.”

His mind raced as he felt the warmth of her touch.  There was something in her eyes that made him want to trust her—something real, something honest.  He knew, just from reading articles, that she was far from a perfect person. Surely she’d done some things in her past that she wasn’t proud of.  She had made mistakes and she knew what it was like to need forgiveness from those you cared about.  Maybe he could trust her.  Maybe she would help him.  He sighed, looking into her eyes—the emerald green orbs flickering at him intently.

Leaning forward slowly, he laid the gun on the coffee table.  “That’s the best I can do,” he whispered.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

His hand felt strangely empty without the gun, having held it for nearly forty eight hours straight. He stared down at it, unsure of what to do or say.  Phyllis slowly reached out, placing her hand in his, squeezing lightly.

It was a simple show of solidarity, a shared bond of two imperfect souls.

“Why are you being so nice to me…after everything I’ve done to you?” he asked.

“I guess you could say I understand.  I’m pretty well acquainted with doing bad things for good reasons and I’ve gotten myself in trouble a time or two with the best of intentions.”  She smiled at him.  “I really believe you have a good heart…I just think you’ve got a little off course.  We’ll figure this out and if you’ll let me help you, maybe we can figure it out together.”

“You want to help me?”

“I think it’s preferable to being your hostage, don’t you?”

Curtis opened his mouth to speak but stopped as the phone began to ring.  For a moment, neither spoke.  He leaned forward, picking up the phone.  “Who is this?”

Billy stood beside Nick as they listened to the voice ring out over the speaker phone.  Paul waved to several guys at the back who worked feverishly to trace the call.

“Why don’t you tell me who you are first?” Nick said, looking back at Paul for confirmation.

Paul nodded.

“I’m not telling you anything until you tell me what I want to hear.”

“And what’s that?” Nick asked.

“When I’ll get the money,” Curtis replied.  “That’s all I’m after.  I don’t want to hurt anybody.  I just want the money.”

“How do we know you haven’t already hurt her,” Billy added.

“There’s more than one of you there,” Curtis said, glancing around the room.  “Did you go to the cops?  I told you no cops.”

Nick glanced over at Billy, his face lined with worry.  Paul shook head, motioning for them to keep him talking.  They needed more time for the trace.

“We didn’t go to the police,” Nick said quickly.  “That’s Billy Abbott, Jack’s brother and I’m Nick Newman.  You sent me the fax.”

Curtis paused.  “Right.  I sent you the fax, but who the hell is this Billy.  How does he know about any of this?”  Curtis looked back at Phyllis.

“Jack told him.  Jack got the fax and called him,” Nick said quickly.

Silence filled the police station for a moment.

“You still there?” Nick said, his voice a bit panicked.

“Yeah…Yeah, I’m here…listen, I really don’t care who I’m dealing with…as long as it’s not the cops and as long as you can pay up.  Like I said, it’s all about the money.  All I need is the money.”

“Before we talk about the money, we need to know Phyllis is ok.  We need to talk to her.  Is she with you?  Can we talk to her?”

Curtis turned back towards Phyllis.  His hand covered the mouthpiece.  “They want to talk to you,” he said, his voice hushed and stressed.  “Don’t tell them where you are.  Don’t tell them my name or anything about me.  Just tell them to do what I say and to get the money. Do you understand?”

Phyllis nodded, taking the phone in her hands.  “I’m here,” she said.

“Phyllis,” Nick said with a sigh.  “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay.  I’m fine…honestly.  I just need you to get the money, please Nick…just get the money.”

“Phyllis.”

“Billy.”  The word came out almost in a whisper and almost immediately her eyes filled with tears.

“We’re gonna get you out of there, ok?  You just hang in there.  I promise…you’re gonna be ok.”

“Billy, I…”

Curtis grabbed the phone.  “That’s enough.  You heard her talk.  She said she’s fine.  Now you know what you need to do.  Get the money.  I’ll be in touch regarding the time of the drop.”

~

His legs went weak as he heard the call drop.

“You ok?” Paul said, his eyes glancing up at him for a moment as he stared at the images on the computer screen.

Billy nodded.

“Did you get the trace?” Nick asked.  “Can you tell where they’re holding her?”

Paul’s brow furrowed.  “Yeah,” he said as he looked at him.  “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

“What doesn’t?” Billy asked, standing up again and walking over to the desk.

“Well, the trace showed the call came from Summer’s apartment.  He’s holding Phyllis hostage at her own house.”

 

Desperate Times pt 6

Nick looked up from his desk as Billy walked back into the office.  “Did you get Jack?”

Billy shook his head.  “He’s not picking up…of course there’s no guarantee he’d answer my call.  He thinks this is all some kind of scam anyway.”

“What?”  He knew Jack was taking the affair hard, but when someone you loved was in trouble, you put all that aside—at least that’s what he thought.

“Yeah,” Billy sighed, “He thinks Phyllis is pulling some kind of scam to get him to admit he cares I guess and apparently he thinks I’m involved in it with her.”

Nick’s eyes widened.  “I mean I know Phyllis has pulled some crazy stunts in the past but I there’s no reason for her to involve me in this.”

“To be fair, he doesn’t know you’re involved.”  He took a breath, still more than a little disgusted by his brother’s reaction.  “Were you able to get in touch with Summer?”

“Yeah.  I didn’t really want to tell her something like this over the phone, but she said she’s planning on staying at the dorms for the weekend to cram for exams.”

Billy nodded.  “That’s good.  She’ll be around lots of people that way and I’m sure the dorms have good security.”

“Yeah…they do.”  Nick stared down at the paper in front of him.  “We need to get this to the police.”

“Are you sure that’s the best idea?”  He saw Nick’s eyes narrow.  “I mean I know the police are better equipped to handle it, but you see what this is—I just…I worry if we don’t do what they say…”

“If we don’t do what they say what?” Nick’s voice was harsh.  “Look, I know you’re worried about Phyllis and I’m not even gonna begin to try and understand what the hell went on between the two of you, but you can’t honestly think that trying to handle this without the police is a good idea.”

“I think if the note says not to involve the police, we should at least consider what pissing off the people that have the woman I….”  He took a deep breath… “If they have her and they don’t want the police involved, what do you think they’re gonna do if they realize we’ve gone against the very first direction they gave us.”

Nick grabbed his keys from the desk.  “Look if you want to sit here and devise a plan to deal with these people on your own, you go ahead.  I’m going to go talk to people who actually do this as a profession.”

“And if you get her killed?” Billy yelled as he watched him walk towards the door.

Nick turned around, his eyes full of anger as they stared back at him.

“What if something happens to Phyllis, Nick?  How are you gonna explain that to Summer?  How are you gonna tell her that it was your idea to involve the police?  How are you gonna explain that your decision could have cost her mother her life?”

~

“Can you please sit down?” Phyllis brought her hand to her head.  “Your pacing is making me dizzy.”

Curtis stopped, turning to look at her.  “Sorry,” he mumbled before taking a seat in the chair near the sofa.  “I just..I thought someone would have called by now.”

“Mornings are always crazy at the office.  The fax machine may not even be cleared off yet,” she said quietly.  She didn’t bother to tell him that her husband might not be overly anxious to pony up money to save her.

“That doesn’t explain Newman.  What’s his excuse?  The two of you have a kid, right?  You’d think he’d want to make sure the mother of his daughter got home safe.”

“Someone will call,” she snapped. “You just have to give them some time.”

He was quiet for a moment, his eyes watching her face. “I know,” he said softly.  He’d never thought of this from her perspective—how strange it must feel to sit and wait for a phone to ring, to hope someone would care enough to pay any price for your safe return, to secretly fear no one would.

“Are you hungry?” Curtis stood, walking towards the kitchen.  “I know you said no earlier, but you haven’t eaten anything and I think you might feel better if you’d just…”

“I don’t want anything.” She couldn’t eat.  The sick feeling in the pit of her stomach simply seemed to curb any appetite she ever thought of having.

A sigh escaped his lips as he walked back to the sofa, this time choosing to sit down beside her. “Look, I really am sorry,” he said quietly.  “If I felt like there was another way—that I had another option.”

“You should have picked a better option.  There may not be a single person willing to come through for me.” Phyllis felt her eyes burning and silently willed herself to pull it together.  She could not let him see her break down.

“Don’t say that,” he whispered.  God—He wasn’t built for this.  She was supposed to be his hostage.  He should look at her and see dollar signs and instead he had to fight the urge to pull her close to him and comfort her.  It was something about her eyes, a deep sadness that resided in them, a sadness he understood, one he identified with.  And then there was her voice—the tremor when she spoke, the anxiety and fear it conveyed—the one he himself felt in his quietest, darkest moments.

“Why not?” she asked, finally having the courage to look into his eyes.  They were a grayish blue but softer and much kinder than the icy blue one that Jack used to stare at her with in recent weeks.  “You were thinking the same thing.  That’s why you’re worried no one has called.”

“That’s not true.  I’m just anxious..that’s all.”

“You should be.  My husband, Jack– He hates me.  The entire town hates me.  No one wants to help me.  In fact, everyone would be very happy if I disappeared.  So, congratulations Curtis, you’ve picked yourself a damn good hostage this time.”

 

Desperate Times pt 5

“You can’t be serious.” Billy stood, staring directly into the eyes of his brother, his own calm, almost icy demeanor in stark contrast to the panic that nearly consumed him. “I mean, Jack—I know you’re angry, but you can’t just do sit back and do nothing.”

“Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do,” Jack spat, his words dripping with anger, the words filled with purpose. “Phyllis will not manipulate me ever again.”

“Manipulate you?” Realization flooded his brain and he slammed his open hand down hard on the desk. “You think this is some kind of game she’s playing, Jack?”

“No. I think it’s some kind of game the two of you are playing, Billy. I think you’re in this with her up to your lying, adulterous neck.” He glared at him, disgust almost seeping from him. “And it’s not going to work. You’re wasting your time. Whatever she promised you in exchange for your part in this, you can go collect.”

“Damn it, Jack.” He snatched the paper from his hands looking back over his shoulder at his brother. “You better pray she’s okay because if she’s not…” He didn’t finish his sentence. He simply rushed out of the office.

Jack leaned back in the leather chair, his brother’s words still in his mind. This was exactly like something Phyllis would do. This was her game, her manipulation, emotional tug of war. She couldn’t really be in trouble. Could she?

~

“It’s done.”

She didn’t speak. She simply shook her head at him in silent condemnation.

“What?” he said quietly, taking a seat in the chair across from her. He didn’t dare approach. She was far too angry.

“I just can’t believe you did this. I can’t believe you’re willing to throw away everything for money you’re never going to see.” Phyllis looked up at him. “You know that, right? Even if my family pays you every dime you ask for, you’ll never see that money. You’re going to rot in a jail cell.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Curtis stood up, pacing slowly up and down the length of the coffee table.

“Oh,” she huffed. “It doesn’t matter? Is that what your son will think when you just don’t come home and what about your wife? Do you have a wife? Your son’s mother? Does she matter? You want to tell me what the hell does matter in all this, Curtis?” Her voice was louder now, the anger becoming harder to keep inside. She’d always hated being controlled. This was her nightmare, being held, being trapped, having someone that had the upper hand in every way. It made her crazy.

“You wouldn’t understand.” He could see the anger in her eyes and he couldn’t fault her for it. With all his heart he wanted to explain things. If he told her, if he explained things to her, at least she would know why things had to happen this way, why he did what he did, but in reality he knew it wouldn’t change a thing. There was no way she would understand—no one could. Not unless you’d been there, not unless you’d experienced the overwhelming fear of knowing you might outlive your child.

So many times over the last hours she’d watched him like this. It was as if he was fighting a battle, a battle inside his own mind. There were two sides to him, a side that needed to be cold and vengeful, the part of him that needed to treat her as an object, as a means to an end. Then there was the other side, the side that had compassion, that had guilt, that wanted to answer her questions, that apologized without thinking, that touched her with an almost innate gentleness.

“How do you know I wouldn’t understand?” she asked, her head tilting a little. “What’s the harm in trying? You’re not going to let me out of here anytime soon? Why not tell me?”
Silence settled in the room for a while. Neither of them spoke. She curled up on the couch, pulling her knees in tighter against her body as she pulled up the throw to cover her.

Still silent, he stood, walking over to the thermostat and adjusting the setting. His back was still turned to her as she heard him begin to speak. “I said it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t.”

His eyes looked into hers as he slowly walked back across the room. This time he took a seat on the far end of the sofa. “The money isn’t for me. It’s for my son.”

“Oh,” Phyllis said quietly. “Is he in trouble?”

Curtis looked at her. “He’s sick.” He didn’t like saying the word. In the past year he could count on one hand the number of times he’d said it. It made him sick inside. Something about actually uttering the word made it more real. This was his son, his little boy. It was never supposed to happen to your family—never to your kid. And then it does.

He looked over at her, her eyes reflecting a level of compassion he hadn’t expected to see. “He needs some treatments that our insurance…” He stopped, “When I still had my job at Newman…my insurance wouldn’t cover the treatments, so I had to figure out a way to pay for them.”

Phyllis nodded. “That’s why you agreed to get the information for Jack….to get some fast money?”

“Right..and then when I was able to pay for the first treatment and the results were good, they told us he needed more…several more and the costs are…” He stopped to look at her. “When I lost my job at Newman…when Victor found out….not only did I lose the income, but I lost the insurance. I don’t have any way to get any of his medicine, any of his treatments. Nothing.”

“I understand,” she said quietly. Even as she said the words she was stunned to realize how true they were. Logically, she knew this was a man that sat with a gun in his hand, but she also knew he was a father doing everything in his power to save his son. She’d feared for her own daughter’s life before and, if put in the same position, she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t have made the same choice if pressured.

“I never wanted to do this,” he continued. “This isn’t who I am.” He lifted the gun. “This isn’t what I do. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to scare you. I just…I don’t know what else to do. I can’t lose my son and I’m out of options.” He shook his head and shut his eyes tight, as his brain tried to process the ramifications of everything he’d said, of everything he’d done. This had seemed like the only way, but was it. Had he truly solved a problem or had he created one he’d never recover from. The feel of a warm hand on his startled him and he opened his eyes to see her sitting closer to him, her hand on his.

“I’m so sorry about your son,” Phyllis said quietly. “When my daughter was younger, she was very sick and we weren’t sure if she was going to pull through. I know how terrifying it is to watch your child fighting. It can drive you to any extreme. I understand…I really do.” She took a breath. “I promise you that I’ll do everything I can to help you, ok?”

He nodded.

“There’s one thing I need you to do.”

“Since I understand now, I’m on your side. I’m gonna stay here and I’m gonna help you through this. You don’t have to keep me here. Can you give me the gun, Curtis?”

Curtis blinked, his head clearing. This was just nice talk…just like the doctors at the clinics…the ones that made all the promises about making things work, about putting patients first, about it not being about money. It was always about money. It was never about the patients. He stood quickly, jerking his hand away from her. “I can’t do that,” he said quickly. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”

“Curtis,” Phyllis protested, standing as well. “Please.”

“No,” his eyes screamed his apology, but his heart couldn’t overrule his head this time. “This is too important. My son is too important. I don’t want to hurt you, ok? If you just do what I ask and cooperate, I won’t have to. I promise, ok?”

She was so close. She could see it in his eyes. He wanted to trust her, but he couldn’t. His eyes pleaded with her to believe him, to trust that he wasn’t going to hurt her.

“I know, Curtis,” she sighed, sitting back down on the sofa. “I know.”

~

Billy walked into the Underground, instantly scanning the room and exhaling in relief when he spotted Nick.

“Nick.” His voice carried over the bar to the spot where Nick stood talking to a couple at a table. Nick politely excused himself and walked across the room.

“Billy? What are you doing here?”

“Yeah, look, I know you’re busy and all, but I really need to talk to you about something and it’s not something I really want to discuss out here. Is there somewhere a little more private we can talk?”

“Uh,” Nick eyed him skeptically. “Billy, I..Uh..If this is about my sister, I really don’t think I should get”

“Nick, this doesn’t have anything to do with Victoria, but it’s important. Please.”

It was something in his tone that made him realize how truly serious it was.

“Ok,” Nick said, pointing down the hall. “We can go back to my office.”

“Thanks,” Billy sighed, following him down the hallway.

They walked into the room. Nick stepped behind the desk, as Billy stepped in and pulled the door. He watched as Nick grabbed some documents off the fax machine and started scanning through them. “So, Billy,” he said, looking up at him. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“It’s actually about Phyllis,” Billy said quietly.

Nick’s eyes darted up. “Billy…I..”

“No, it’s not like that…I think she’s in trouble. Jack got this weird fax today and he thinks she’s pulling some kind of trick to get him to worry about her, but I think….” Billy stopped, realizing Nick was staring at the papers in his hands instead of paying attention to him. “Nick,” he said, his tone curt, “This is important.”

Nick stopped, holding out a sheet of paper towards Billy. “That weird fax Jack got…Did it look anything like this?”

Billy took the paper, his heart immediately sinking. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “It’s exactly like this.” He looked back up at Nick. “Why would someone send it to you too?”

“Because of Summer I guess,” Nick replied, his words rushed, his hand already on his cell phone busily dialing Summer’s number. “I need to call her…make sure she’s ok.”

“So you agree with me? You think Phyllis is in real trouble?” Billy asked, suddenly realizing he’d been wishing someone would prove him wrong.

“Yeah,” Nick said solemnly. “I think Phyllis could be is some very real trouble. As soon as I find Summer, you and I are going to the police.”

Desperate Times pt 4

“Jack.” Billy hurried down the hall as he saw his brother headed to his office.

Jack stopped, turning around to face him. “I’m gonna fire that guard,” he said, his voice void of any pleasantry. “This isn’t your company. You have no business being here. Kindly leave before I have you thrown out.” He turned, resuming his walk towards his doorway.

“Jack, wait…please. It’s about Phyllis.”

He gripped the door handle hard, rage welling up inside him. The mere mention of her name coming from his lips–his mind went to the dark places. He thought of the many other times he’d whispered her names, in her arms, at the cabin. His stomach lurched, the thoughts making him physically ill.

Jack spun around, his crystal blue eyes now icy and harsh. “Don’t you dare come in here and say her name!” He took a breath, realizing his emotions betrayed his vulnerability. “Any issues you have with Phyllis you need to take up with Phyllis. She’s not my problem, not my concern…not anymore.”

“I would love to do that, Jack, but Phyllis isn’t here.”

The expression was only visible for a fraction of a second, but it was unmistakeable. The concern that flashed in Jack’s eyes mirrored his own.

“Maybe she’s taking a day off,” Jack mumbled, quickly looking away.

“You know that’s not it Jack…and you know she’s always the first one here. Making herself indispensable here is her MO. That’s what she does.”

“And I’ll tell you what I’ve told her. She’s wasting her time. Why don’t you find her a place at Brash and Sassy. That way you two can work and play together.”

“Damn it, Jack…I’m telling you..something is really wrong here. I know it.”

Jack stared at him, his eyes unfeeling. “Because you have that connection, right?” His voice dripped with disdain.

Billy sighed. He was wasting his breath and his time–time he could spend trying to find Phyllis. “Forget it.”

As he heard the door slam, he turned, walking over to the table, pouring water into a glass and taking a sip. Billy’s voice echoed in his head. Jack sighed. She was not his problem.

~

He sat quietly in the chair, watching her. She was on the couch, her legs curled up towards her chest, her arms pulled in tight against her. She’d tried to talk to him several more times before he’d screamed at her again, his harsh response finally driving her to walk away and sit down, turning away from him. He remembered how bad he’d felt when he realized she was crying, how he’d had to stop himself from walking over to her, from trying to comfort her.

She was his chance to save his son. That was it. That was all she was. That was all she could ever be.

He stood, walking over to the kitchen. The coffeemaker sat on the countertop and, as he reached up to the cabinet to look for the filters, the box fell from the shelf and hit the floor. Curtis bent down, grabbing them quickly as if speed could erase the sound. He stood straight, looking towards the couch where Phyllis began to stir.

She sat up, turning towards the kitchen, his eyes still red from the night before.

“Sorry,” he said quietly, “I didn’t mean to wake you. I was gonna make some coffee. Do you want some?”

“No,” Phyllis said quickly, turning back around. She’d resolved herself to stop this as she lay there last night–alone with her own thoughts. Who shows kindness to a man that holds them captive? To a man that points a gun at them?

“What about some breakfast?” He asked. He needed to do this, to make an effort, to try and remind her and himself that he wasn’t completely heartless. He walked across the room, holding the gun down by his side. He looked at her, “I’m no chef, but I could whip up some eggs…maybe some toast?”

“Stop it,” Phyllis snapped. “Stop pretending that this is some kind of damn joke. This isn’t funny. You’ve got a gun. You’re threatening me. This isn’t a movie. You aren’t going to win me over by showing me a glimpse into your tortured soul.”

Curtis sighed. “Look, I know you think I’m here for purely selfish reasons. I know you think this is about money, but it’s not. I swear it’s not.”

“I’d ask you what it was about, but you scream at me anytime I try to, so I’m done, Curtis–ok? I’m done. Call whoever you’re gonna call. Ask for whatever you’re gonna ask for. I just want this to be over.”

He nodded, turning back towards the kitchen. He couldn’t argue that. He needed it to be over too.

“There’s just one more thing you should know…” Phyllis stood, walking into the kitchen, banishing her fear and trepidation, forcing herself to stand eye to eye and look at him. “You can demand money from my family and they’ll pay you, but you’ll pay too. I promise you. I won’t rest until you pay for this.”

~

“Mr. Abbott?”

Jack looked up as his secretary stepped into his office, “Yes?”

“A fax just came in for you.”

He could tell by her expression that something was off.

She held the paper out to him and waited for his response.

Jack’s eyes widened as he read the message. He looked up, his expression not entirely concerned. “Call Billy Abbott. Get him up here now.”

~

Jack jumped at the sound of his office door being jerked open. Billy barreled in, his chest heaving.

“What is it? What’s wrong? Is it Phyllis?” His heart pounded, horrible scenarios playing out in his head.

Jack thrust the paper towards him. “This some kind of joke to you?”

Billy read the words, his heart sinking with every word. The moisture left his mouth, reality sinking in. “Where did you get this?”

Jack glared at him. “Like you don’t know.”

“What? You think I did this?Why would I do this?”

“To make a point? To show me I still care? To try and make me forgive her? I figure you’re so hopelessly in love with her, you’re willing to do whatever she asked.”

Billy took a deep breath, trying desperately to keep his composure. The thought of Phyllis being somewhere, of her being in danger while he stood there arguing with his brother. “Jack, I swear I had nothing to do with this, but now that I know, now that Im here…I can help you. Let me help you. We’ve got to call the number.”

Jack shook his head, his eyes cold and completely devoid of all compassion, “We’re not calling anyone.”

Desperate Times pt 3

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….

“Curtis?”

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.

Desperate Times pt 2

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.”

Desperate Times 1

This is what the end of the road looks like, he thought as he pushed the door open and stepped into the small motel room. There was a time he would have turned his nose up at a place like this, a time he would have considered the men and women he passed on his way to the room to be sad degenerates. Now, he simply looked at them and wondered when it had changed for them, what had happened in their life, who had given up on them, or had they just given up on themselves?

The room smelled–a mix of stale cigarette smoke and age, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t here for long…just long enough to get the plan in place. He pulled out the folder and opened it as he sat at the small table in the corner. The articles spanned years. Nicholas Newman stood with his arm around her waist, a happy moment frozen in time. Their marriage may have ended, but the two were still close. They shared a daughter–a bond.

Phyllis Newman wasted little time moving on to another powerful family, soon becoming betrothed to Jack Abbott and subsequently marrying him. Phyllis’ life had clearly been an interesting one and he almost regretted not having had more time to spend reading up on her sordid past. In this case, the highlights would have to do. The recent tabloid fodder centered around her torrid affair with Billy Abbott…aka loaded Abbott brother number two. Scuttlebutt was Billy boy was still crazy in love with her. That could mean only good things for him.

Curtis leaned back a bit, holding the press photo of Phyllis in his hand and staring at it for a moment. His marriage was over and he knew it. He’d lost Lise years ago before Luke had ever been diagnosed. In fact, he was certain the papers would have been filed by now had it not been for the sheer insanity of the past year. He was losing his wife…he couldn’t lose his son.

He pulled out the rest of the papers, stacks of medical bills, numbers that blurred together on page after page and immediately overwhelmed him. One woman, three men, two powerful, rich families. This had to work. He would make it work.

Some would say he had nothing to lose, but in truth–he had everything.

~
Phyllis glanced at the clock. It was almost midnight. Who would drop by this late? Her heart beat a little faster as she realized Summer was out of town. She hadn’t heard from her tonight…what if…

She pulled the robe tight around her, walking quickly to the door, her breath already tight in her chest. “Who is it?” She called her hand gripping the handle.

“Uh..it’s Curtis…Curtis Fielding.” He paused, looking around the hallway. “Listen, I know it’s late and I apologize for intruding, I really do. It’s just–I need to speak to someone about something and I’m just not sure who I can trust…”

Phyllis stood at the door, her face pressed close. There had been something in his eyes during their last meeting, something that intrigued her, that fascinated her. He seemed torn, distracted, unsure. She’d mentioned it to Jack when she’d brought in the briefcase–that she wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue. And now here he was…at her door, asking her for a place of confidence. It was late and she was here alone. Everything screamed that this was a bad idea and yet there was something about him. The eyes? The jawline? The crooked smile? The voice? Maybe everything combined.

She took a step back and slowly pulled open the door.

Curtis hesitated, almost surprised she’d agreed so quickly. He almost felt guilty for punishing someone so trusting, so willing to give him an opportunity to explain, but he had no time for sympathy. It had been her carelessness that had cost him the job with Jack. It had been her that had shown her hand to Abby–she had caused him to lose the job at Newman. The job that came with the paycheck and the insurance–the insurance that at least covered some of Luke’s medical expenses.

That was what he had to focus on…he had to think about his little boy and how angry he was that he was going through this hell. When he thought of him, it was easy to lash out, to want to hurt people, to want to hurt anyone–even someone that didn’t necessarily deserve it.

“You said you needed to talk about something?” Phyllis finally spoke when the silence in the room became unnerving.

Curtis looked up, startled by the sound of her voice. “Yes. Yeah, I did. I don’t know what you might have heard, but…”

“I heard that you told Victor you were giving information to Jack and me.”

“I know how that must sound, but you need to understand…he already knew.”

“He couldn’t have known. Nobody knew.”

“He did. Apparently someone followed you to the club the other day, saw our exchange, and reported right back to the big boss.”

Phyllis eyed him suspiciously.”And I’m supposed to believe that because you say so? Because your word is suddenly golden?” She paused, her green eyes flashing at him, “we are only connected because you double crossed your boss to make a quick buck. You put your greed over your loyalty…”

“You don’t know anything about me.” The deep sexy voice that had once been alluring was suddenly ominous and vaguely threatening.

“I know that you didn’t think very much about the wife and son you wouldn’t be able to support when you lost your cushy job at Newman. What is it Curtis? You got a gambling problem…or another little problem you’re trying to pay to go away?”

“You need to stop making these snap judgments, Phyllis. People will get the wrong idea about you.” He patted his pocket lightly, confirming it was there, the feel of the cool metal sending a wave of adrenaline through his body.

“Now it’s my turn,” she said smugly, “you don’t know anything about me either.”

It was as elegant and fluid as he’d hoped it would be and the look in her eyes was the perfect mix of shock and terror. He knew that feeling all too well and now, knowing someone else felt it too, it somehow made him feel less alone. He pointed the gun at her, his smile broadening.

“You’re right. I don’t know you, but we’ve got plenty of time to take care of that.”

 

Desperate Times Introduction

Curtis stood outside the door of the bar. “I know,” he sighed, pulling the phone away from his ear so she wouldn’t hear his heavy sigh. “I’m doing the best I can, Lise.” He paused as he listened to her rant. She was angry, but more than that she was worried.

“We needed that money, Curtis. The insurance won’t pay for these treatments and he needs them now. You promised me that Jack Abbott was the answer. You swore that you could keep your job at Newman and get this money from Jack. I was counting on you. Luke was counting on you…and now you go and get caught. Not only is Jack finished with you, but you’ve lost your job too?! What the hell am I supposed to do?”

“You don’t think I’m worried?! Dammit, Lise! I was doing this for you…for Luke. I did everything I knew how to do. Just give me some time…I’ll figure this out.”

“That’s what you said the last time. Luke doesn’t have time. He gets sicker every day. If we don’t get him those treatments…and soon, he’s….”

He heard the break in her voice. He recognized the desperation. They had both been hanging on to this thin thread of hope for months–ever since their little boy had been given that terrible diagnosis. To help his son, he would have done anything, taken any risk, made any deal, with Jack, with Victor, with the devil himself.

“I’ll fix this,” he promised. “Please, just give me a little while. I promise I’ll fix it. Lise? Lise?” She was gone.

He opened the door to the bar, stepping inside and walking up to the counter. He locked eyes with the guy at the other end, a slight nod confirming his identity. The man rose, taking a seat beside him, reaching into his coat and passing him a paper bag. Curtis glanced inside, checking the silver barrel before passing a thin, manila envelope to him. Then he was gone. Curtis sat quietly for a minute. The weight of the bag in his pocket nothing in comparison to the weighted worries on his mind.

He had made mistakes. He had let his wife down. He had let his son down. Lise blamed him and he couldn’t blame her. He only blamed one person and that was the one that got him caught–the one that got both of them caught…and that was Phyllis Abbott.