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Authors: Tracy L Carbone

Hope House (9 page)

BOOK: Hope House
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2.

New Age Adoption Agency, Miami, morning

 

Mick
leaned against his office door, his sweaty cheek pressed against the wood. He closed his eyes and tried to unclench his jaw. Too close. Mick’s sister Angela, who worked the desk, dealt with that damnable woman and sent her away. Angela had no idea who Gloria Hanes-Carpenter was. Probably some nut. A stalker, like Mick told her when she asked him what to do about the pushy woman in the lobby. What would have happened if Angela had let Gloria in? Would she have recognized Mick Puglisi from college? He walked from the door and sat at his desk, slumping in the high back leather chair.
From now on, all the donors die
, he decided. No more of this fake miscarriage crap. They hadn’t had a new donor in years, hadn’t needed one, but next time . . .

If Gloria found out what really happened to her baby, it would be the end of the enterprise and possibly the crumbling of a lot more. He’d hoped getting rid of that actress Donna Mallory had taken care of everything, but now this. 

“Get a grip, man,” he said to himself.  Angela
didn’t
let Gloria in so he didn’t need to get all bent out of shape with what ifs.  Things were still fine. It was a small potential business hurdle; nothing else. Besides, he had a man on it. Joey would take care of the prying bitch soon enough. He’d better.

He hit speed dial. “Joey, you got good news for me?”


I lost her. She’s parked right outside your office. She in there
?” Joey didn’t pronounce any of his r’s and it made Mick cringe. He had worked so hard to break himself of his New England accent but people like Joey utterly refused to integrate. Joey stuck out like a sore thumb in the circles Mick aspired to travel in. Angela was the same way. Actually Mick was the only one in his family or group of friends who didn’t still have an accent. The only one who seemed to rise to the level of professionalism if the Puglisis were ever to be taken seriously in corporate America.

“No, Joey, she’s not in here.”


Well, she ain’t out here neither. I’m by her car though so she ain’t going far
.”

“Out by her cah, ain’t going fah?”


Don’t gimme shit, Mick. You want her hit or not
?”

“Yeah just find her will you? And make it look like an accident. Don’t just shoot her. It will be too obvious. She might have told someone
about her suspicions and if she’s shot, no one will believe it was random.”


I’m on it boss.”

Mick hung up and called his cousin Louie.  “Hey Louie, sorry for the short notice but I need to fly to Haiti right away.”


I don’t know, Mick. My guy isn’t working Customs tonight
.”

“That’s okay. It’s just me flying and I’ve got my passport. No cargo is coming home with me.”


All right. What say you meet me at the plane at two o’clock?”

“Great thanks. Oh, I’ll have little Luke with me too, but I’ve got his passport.”


We spending the night?”

“Yeah. I’ll book you a room in Port Au Prince.”


Good man. See you at two.”

Mick hung up and looked at the stack of applications on his desk he needed to review. So many people willing to pay top dollar for a healthy American infant. Never a shortage of demand for his product. They didn’t all want blonds of course. Those were just what came out of the Haiti operation. His other centers had brown, black
, and redheaded kids. Different mothers, different sperm donors. He’d considered mixing up the batches a little, but keeping the centers separate by coloring simplified things for him. It made it a lot easier figuring out where he needed to fly and when.

He flipped through the folders and frowned. “Angela!”

Mick saw his sister’s long, red fake nails wrap around the door and heard her gum snap before he saw her face. “What, Mickey? I’m reading
People.”

If Daddy hadn’t made him give Angela this job he would’ve hired an assistant with class, someone who more rightly fit the part of the kind of agency he wanted this to be. She
wore a tight black top, cut too low, and a gaudy gold necklace. Her lipstick was much too red. It screamed tramp.

“You have to dress like that, Angie? Why don’t you try to look more professional?”

“Give it a rest, Mickey. You call me all the way in here to give me a fashion lecture?” Lektcha. She snapped her gum again.

“No. These files.” He pushed the stack toward her. “These are supposed to be sorted by preference. None of these are tagged.”

“None of these parents had a preference. They all just said they wanted healthy babies. I sorted them by boys and girls but no one requested any hair color.”

He flipped open a folder and saw a picture of the prospective parents, a formal portrait
. This was a requirement, not to show that they could get dressed up and make it to a JC Penney, but so Mick could match them with the right breeding source so their kid would resemble them. “See this? Look at these parents. They both have curly dark brown hair. So think, Angie. Am I going to get them a baby from Haiti?”

“No, Mickey. El Salvador,” she whined. El Salvador made the brown-haired kids. Clarissa, Mick thought with a grin. That delicious British pre-med he met at Oxford. God was she sexy. All these years later he quivered when he thought of her. And so smart. Nice straight teeth too. She’d never had braces. He’d asked. Or rather Tad had. Her boyfriend was a good-looking guy too, as those things went. Big into Rugby and also at Oxford. No family history of hereditary disease. Impeccable genes all around. How could he resist?

“Right. I know no one asks for special coloring but it’s common sense to give people children that will resemble them. I gave you this new responsibility because I know you can handle it.”

She reached for the files. “Up yours, Mickey Mouse. I’ll go through them, already.” She hefted the stack and started walking out.

“Damn it, Angie, don’t call me that!”

“M-I-C, see ya real soon,” she sang.

He sighed and she finished singing the song that she’d taunted him with since he could remember. He made a paper airplane while she plunked out the notes around a wad of gum. “K-E-Y, Why because we like you,” then the dreaded pause, “PU-GL-I-S-I. Mickey Puglisi!” She laughed from her desk and he couldn’t help but laugh too. He adored his little sister and always would, even if she was classless and tormented him around every bend. He smiled and leaned over on his desk till he had a clear shot of her.

“Angie,” he called in the sweetest voice he could muster.

She turned around and he launched the plane. A direct hit into her mass of blond streaked black curls. “All right already, Mickey,” she said pulling the plane out of her hair. “Let me do some work.”

He smiled. A peek
around his empty desktop confirmed he was free to go.

Mick dialed Luke’s nanny and
asked her to pack Luke an overnight bag. Mick had planned on working a full day, but he needed to head down to Haiti to tell Tad in person that Gloria Carpenter was in Miami, sniffing around. Maybe Joey would snuff her out today and deem this trip unnecessary. God he hoped Joey would just do his thing and get it over with. If not though, Tad needed to be apprised of the situation. He’s the one who brought Gloria into the enterprise in the first place.

He picked up his briefcase, said goodbye to his sister, and left, whistling th
e old Disney tune Angela had planted in his head.

 

3.

Miami, same time

 

Kurt Malone
spent his morning at a café meeting with a client, some stockbroker who wanted to leave the country in a hurry and take his assets with him. Kurt had walked him through the process, arranged the necessary wires, and promised to leave false trails for him in case anyone might actually be pursuing the guy. Kurt had just been collecting his down payment for services when Gloria had called him. As she sounded hysterical, he’d quickly wrapped up business with the client and walked the few blocks to the store where he expected to meet Tommy Carpenter’s ex, a woman named Gloria Hanes. Tommy had given him a heads-up, sure that the ex would be in contact.

Tommy Carpenter was a partner at a mid-sized criminal law firm. Kurt had helped a couple of the firm’s clients disappear and hide funds, and apparently the partners were pretty impressed. There was nothing to it, thought Kurt. All in a day’s work. A few false addresses and knowing which countries were safe and which weren’t, and he could get just about anyone a safe passage to a new life.

Tommy had told him that his ex-wife was imbalanced, the elite euphemism for crazy. He explained that Gloria had a miscarriage six years ago and went to a mental hospital because she couldn’t accept it, kept saying that the doctors stole her baby. A big conspiracy. She’d been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic but had it under control all these years since the divorce. Until now. “You need to show there’s nothing to her story, that it was all in the past, and that she needs to accept the truth and look at the facts. You can set her straight, Kurt, if anyone can,” Tommy had said.

Kurt had protested that it sounded more like a job for a psychiatrist but Tommy insisted otherwise, pointing out that she no longer trusted her shrink or any shrink for that matter. Malone was no one’s fool. He realized from the get go that Tommy needed Kurt for damage control while his loopy ex-wife ran herself in circles and got this out of her system. “Just keep her company, offer her someone to talk to. She’s bright and logical
normally
and if you just help her realize there’s no collusion—coming from a professional detective like you—then she’ll get over it and we can all move on.”

So it was a babysitting job. Five thousand to babysit the guy’s ex, and she’d pay him too because she didn’t know Tommy had given him a retainer. Not a bad way to make money. Not bad at all.

He walked into the clothing store and nodded to the hippie woman behind the counter. She wore small-framed glasses, and a knitted cap concealed part of a bush of curly, gray hair. Rail thin and about fifty-years-old. Smack in between the old and new Woodstocks. The shop smelled of incense. He looked at some of the tags on the faded clothing as he walked to the back of the store and laughed to himself. A hundred and twenty-five dollars for a used pair of Levis supposedly once owned by Joan Baez that the shopkeeper likely got for five bucks at the Salvation Army. Being a vintage, aka used, clothing storeowner seemed like a good way to make a living too. 

“Are you looking for something in particular, sir?” Her tone was light, almost flirtatious. “Can I be of service?”

“My lady called me from her cell. Said I
had
to see this outfit. So much for waiting in the car.”

The woman laughed. “She’s back there.”

He walked to the wall of curtained cubes. Only one was closed. “It’s safe out here, Gloria. Come on out.”

Kurt wasn’t prepared for what he saw. Gloria Hanes was hot. Really hot. She had flowing blond hair, high cheekbones and full, perfect shiny lips.
Behind her sunglasses, he assumed her eyes were as luscious as the rest of her. They had to be. Her body was steaming too. Thin and tight but with curves. She pulled off her sunglasses and smiled at him. Her eyes were bloodshot but beyond the red, bright blue.

“Thank you so much for coming.” She reached out to touch his arm and chills shot through him. “I didn’t know who else to call and I really need you.”

The combination of her touch and her pleading tone sent blood rushing to his every nerve ending, including his penis, which swelled and pressed against his boxer briefs. His jeans hid this fact pretty well, but he was embarrassed. He hoped she didn’t look down.

Her manicured slender fingers gripped his arm.  God he loved it when women did their nails. “You can help me
, right?”

He had to step back and break the contact or he’d be tempted to follow the fantasy he was having about shoving her into the dressing room and—

“Mr. Malone?”

“Sorry. Yes, I’ll help you.” Big smile which may not be appropriate given her situation but he couldn’t help himself. His heart hammered in his chest. The thought of this sexy woman needing him drove him crazy. Some guys liked powerful corporate women, or old-fashioned girls, or leather-clad sex fiends with whips. But not Kurt. His big turn on was a woman who needed him.
Throw in the fact this one was a perfect ten in looks  . . . 

Maybe she
was
crazy; he couldn’t tell yet, but he’d stick to her like glue for as long as he could get away with it. The hell with the temptation. He reached out and took her hand. As soft as a satin glove. “Come with me, Gloria. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go somewhere safe and I’ll take care of you.” 

 

4.

Same time, same location

 

Gloria held Kurt’s arm as they walked toward his car.
 
Despite the angst she felt about her situation, she smiled at the comfort his closeness brought. He was a handsome man. Not pretty like Tommy, whose thousand-dollar designer suits and perfect hair made him look like a model. Kurt was sexy in a better way. Powerful, strong, rugged. A big brute who would hammer someone if they tried to touch her. Of course that was his job, to protect her, but beyond that, a base animal attraction. She didn’t just want him to protect her. Gloria blushed at the truth, having only just met Kurt, but the truth wasn’t going away. She was attracted.

BOOK: Hope House
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