All It Took Was You

by

Ali Vali

Part 10

"I thought today was your day off?"

"You wanted me to come see you, so here I am. I thought we could talk and see how we could help each other both get what we both want."

"There’s no way for me to get what I want. After I leave here, I’ll be lucky to see the sun again." Byron looked at the woman sitting next to his bed. She was dressed causally but had her I.D. hanging from her neck with the name turned toward her chest. It just occurred to him that she knew who he was, but he had no idea who she was, and what she wanted.

"If you could get out, what would you want most to do?" Mitzy had offered to relieve the nurse on duty for an hour to give her the opportunity to talk to Byron. Waiting until the next night when she was working was too long away, so she had gotten dressed and driven to the hospital.

The chance she was taking could alter her future in a way that made her afraid, but the payoff was worth the gamble. She figured the problem with Desi was that the blonde was not smart enough to control Byron. He was big, but with the right attitude he could be managed. With the right plan, they would both get what they wanted.

Mitzy looked over his chart to check the progress of his healing as she waited for him to answer. Byron was looking at her with a great deal of suspicion, and she could just imagine he was thinking she was a plant from the police or something else just as heinous. The knife wound he had gotten the night he had broken into the Basantes household, had surprisingly gone clean through to the other side without hitting any major artery or organ. The only things that were going to be a problem were the broken bones.

"There is no sense in me wishing for things I don’t have a chance at getting," answered Byron after what seemed to be an eternity. This talk was not going like he had planned the night before. He wanted to use Mitzy to get some information on Desi, and the baby he had tried to steal.

"If there is one thing I have come to realize in this life, Mr. Simoneaux, is that nothing is ever impossible if you want it bad enough. What do you want bad enough to take a chance?"

"I asked you to call me Byron, so please do, and before we go any further, what’s your name?"

"My name isn’t necessary to answer my question, Bryon. Either answer it, or I will be on my way." The voice Mitzy used held a hint of authority that made Byron pause before he answered.

"I want to see my wife more than anything. There are some things we left unsaid and I think a long talk is way over due. Is that a good enough answer for you?" Mitzy smiled at the way he had bent to her wishes. If Byron continued with this attitude, everything she had thought about was possible.

"Yes, it is. I think there is a way that we can help each other so everyone is happy. You said yourself you and Desi were happy before Harry came along and ruined it for you. If you love her as much as you say, then I’m sure that she is just waiting for you to come back." The more she talked the more Byron smiled. His plan was to lay back and see what this woman had in mind. It didn’t really matter to him whatever her motives were as long as she got him out.

"I’m sure of it, but my problem is that I’m stuck in here." Byron used his one good arm as much as he could to point out his surroundings. The one thing he made sure not to do was to make any of his movements be viewed as aggressive.

"I think if you and I put our heads together, we can come up with a solution to that problem." Mitzy smiled at him and continued on with her newfound assertiveness. "Guard, I need you to release this patient for a moment."

"I’m sorry, ma’am, but that’s not possible." The guard had been watching his ward and the nurse talking for quite some time. He was about to question what they were consulting about for so long when he saw Mitzy look in Byron’s chart. That, combined with the fact that the other nurse had left to go on break, made him decide that she was legitimate and left them alone.

"I’m not taking him anywhere, sir, I just need to check the progress of his injuries so that we can make a determination on whether he is ready to be sent back to Angola." The way she explained it sounded so reasonable, the guard came over and unlocked the cuff around Byron’s wrist.

When he was free of his leash, Byron sat up slowly. When he was sitting upright, a tremendous wave of dizziness almost sent him back on his back. He was sure if he threw up, his stitches would be in danger of tearing loose. The guard looked on as Mitzy came up to Byron’s side and helped him off the bed to his feet, watching Byron’s face for any sign that the prisoner was getting ready to try something.

The pain was the first thing he was aware of. His gut felt like someone was sticking a hot poker into it, but thinking of Harry made him swallow any complaint that was threatening to come out of his mouth. Byron wanted Mitzy to believe he was ready for anything she had in mind. Taking a few tentative steps on his own, Byron walked to the end of the bed and back showing his benefactor what he was capable of even with the injuries. His smile with the missing teeth almost made her shiver at the sight.

"Is that what you were looking for, ma’am?" The guard was happy to see that Byron was getting better. Sitting in the drab room all day was not the best duty he could have pulled, but he was stuck until Byron was ready to go.

"Yes, thank you for helping out. Please lie down for me, Mr. Simoneaux, that’s all the exertion you are ready for today. We’ll have to consult with the doctor, but I’m thinking another week and a half and you will be ready to travel." For the guard’s benefit, Mitzy looked in the chart again as he walked back to his chair.

"Now that you can see I’m mobile, what is it you had in mind?"

"Just get some rest and leave the thinking to me." Byron’s face turned dark for a split second at her answer, but he covered it before Mitzy looked up from the papers in her hand. "I’ll be back soon."

"I’ll be waiting."

"It’s not like you have any choice."

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"Is that a threat?"

"Yes, lover, it is, either feed me now or there will be hell to pay." Desi leaned against Harry in the kitchen ready to leave for lunch. She had just finished feeding Jack and was anxious to spend some time out with just Harry. Tony was going to stay and work with the painters while they were gone, and now Harry was playing hard to get.

"Are you sure we don’t have to go back to the house and get some more money," said Harry pulling some folded bills out of her pocket. They had been discussing changes to the house until after one in the afternoon. "Come on, shortie, I’m taking you some place new."

"Mom, would you and Mami take Jack back up to the house for us?" The question made the two women spring into action and start layering clothes back on Jack.

Desi smiled when she stepped outside and saw her car parked behind Stephen’s truck. Harry threw her the keys and folded her body into the passenger seat ready to give directions to where they were going. "You don’t want to drive?"

"No, precious, you handle this car better than I do. Make a u-turn when you get the chance and head downtown." She sat back after that and enjoyed the ride until it was time to tell Desi where to go next. Beside her, Desi put the car into gear and looked back at the house before turning onto St. Charles. At the door she could see Tony waving to her before retreating into the warmth of the kitchen.

It was too cold to put the top down but the day was perfect in every other way. The sky was a brilliant blue, minus the clouds that had plagued them for over a month. The turnaround in the weather had brought out a multitude of people to the park as Desi could see as they drove by it. Thinking about pushing Jack around the track in a couple of months brought a smile to her face since it was one of the things she had looked forward to the most since getting pregnant. Desi could remember the days that Harry had pushed her around the track at a jog when she was still confined to a wheelchair after Byron had broken her leg. On those days she would look up at Harry as they made their way around the customary three times and see the look on her chauffeur’s face when someone with a baby went by. It had been that look of longing that had given Desi the courage to ask Harry for what she too truly wanted.

"What are you smiling at?" Harry asked her when she noticed the happiness reflected in Desi’s face as she maneuvered the car down the avenue. She put her hand on the smaller woman’s thigh, feeling the muscles flex when Desi shifted the car.

"I was thinking of us strolling around here with Jack when the weather cooperates, and I even got my wish." Desi patted the hand on her thigh lovingly when the eyebrow went up with her statement.

"What was that?" The two of them were so involved in their conversation that neither of them noticed the car following behind them. It wasn’t unusual for someone to stay with you for blocks on the avenue since it didn’t become four lanes until you were closer to the downtown area.

"I got a little you that will leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who his parents are. Now I have to get you one of those jogging strollers."

"Where exactly will you be, when I’m running around with our runt?" Harry pointed down one of the side streets when they stopped at a red light.

"I thought I would get one big enough that I could sit and hold him, that way you could push us both around." Desi took the turn and wondered if Harry had forgotten where the restaurant they were going to was. The old grand buildings of St. Charles gave way to abandoned ones that had burnt out cars resting like relics of war in front of them. Not that she was attached to material possessions, but leaving her car in this neighborhood was going to be a gamble at the most. "Are you sure we’re going the right way?"

"Yes, don’t change the subject. I’m pushing you and the bruiser during my runs? Take a left up here and pull into that parking lot." Harry pointed to the building on the corner. It was the only one that looked like it had some life left in it, and when Desi pulled into the lot, she noticed they probably were driving the cheapest car there.

"You need the exercise, honey, so don’t complain. At least you will have us to talk to while you run around like a hamster on one of those wheels. Why haven’t you brought me here before?" When they stepped in, a big enthusiastic man came from behind the high counter and hugged Harry hello. After greeting her he gave her a lecture about her long absence and the fact she hadn’t introduced Desi.

"Give me a minute, Anthony, we just walked in when you accosted me. Desi meet Anthony, the owner of this fine establishment, Anthony my wife Desi." Harry stepped out of the way as he took Desi’s hands into his own looking at her from head to toe.

"I can see how this little slip of a girl bagged and tagged you, doc. You are beautiful," said Anthony pulling her into a hug. "Stand here and let someone get you a beer while I clean a table for you. We are going to celebrate the death of one of the longest bachelorhoods in the city."

Desi stepped next to Harry as the man behind the counter shucking oysters stopped for a moment, wiped his hands and handed them both a Dixie beer. She was amused that he didn’t open them and just smiled at Harry when she rested the top of one of the bottles at the edge of the counter and slammed her hand down on it popping the top off. When it came off cleanly, he winked at Harry and went back to his oysters without ever saying a word.

Harry put her arm around Desi, as the blonde took in the sparse interior of the restaurant anxious to see how her face would change when she took her first bite of anything on Uglesich’s limited menu. "The restaurant was first opened by Anthony’s parents when the neighborhood was in a little better shape. He kept it open after they retired and the local thugs just knew to leave him alone. They only open for lunch now, and made an exception only during carnival and Jazzfest when the locals that have moved away come in and have some seafood."

Harry pointed to the board on the wall that had the menu written on it knowing there were none on the tables. Every original dish was named for one of Anthony’s children or his wife, and the three or four new ones were in honor of his grandchildren. Desi smiled at the place they were standing in sure that if it hadn’t been for Harry, the only way she would have found the place was to stop and ask directions because she was lost. There were only twelve tables in the place, and along the walls Anthony had wooden cases of beer and Barq’s root beer instead of the usual clever decorations other eateries had.

It was nice to get away for a couple of hours, and by the time they were finished they were the only ones left in the place. Desi had been entertained by stories of a younger Harry and Kenneth who had found the place when they were in medical school. The fear that Byron and his family had created since their escape was gone, and Desi’s laughter was unforced for the first time in weeks. She had the life she had wanted for so long and it was nice to go about the business of living it.

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After all she deserved it. She had worked hard and Harry had promised it to her from their first date. The one thing that had put a crimp in those plans had been that intruder that should have been ancient history. Once that obstacle was back where it belonged, then she and Harry could be happy.

Mitzy had watched them from the car the day before. That under classed hick driving that expensive car and hanging all over Harry as they came out of the restaurant almost made her smash her car into the small woman. Everything bad that had happened to her, had happened after the arrival of Desi, and it was pasted time she went back to the moron she had married.

Once that happened, Mitzy figured her life would go back to normal. She would get her job back, she could start dating Harry again and with any luck, it would be her redoing the big house on the avenue. "All I have to do now is plan this so that Byron gets his wish, and he and his little woman go back to whatever trailer park they crawled out of." Mitzy went over the plan again as she neared the hospital parking lot.

On the ward, Celia was sitting in her usual spot reading over any new orders that had been left for their patients. Mitzy said a quick hello before sitting and doing the same. Most of her patients were let go on the Monday she had been off, so Mitzy had to see who had taken their places. Before she had come up, she had stopped off in Catherine’s office and volunteered for any blood collection that had to be done in the outer wards, telling her how much she had enjoyed the last time she had done it. When Mitzy got up to start her rounds she kept feeling the front pocket of her skirt for the one purchase she had made after leaving her vigil of Harry and Desi the prior day.

At four in the morning Catherine made her call, thrilled that Mitzy was working out so well and was so willing to take on extra tasks. Her assignment was to draw blood from the next in line at the same Building 100 that she had gone to previously, and this time Mitzy didn’t have to stop and ask for directions, she went straight to the spot she was becoming familiar with.

"Perfect." Mitzy watched as the nurse assigned to the unit stepped out and met another man waiting for him by the door. They each had a paper bag in their hands and the man waiting held up a lighter for the cigarette hanging from the nurse’s lips.

Mitzy opened the door as quietly as she could and was feeling invincible when she saw the same guard from the night before sleeping in the chair at the back of the room. Whoever the other patient was, he was kept well sedated since she hadn’t seen him awake on the other occasions she had come into the prisoner’s ward.

"Don’t make any noise," she whispered to Byron. He had opened his eyes to find Mitzy looking down on him and trying to fit a key into the cuff at his wrist. When she twisted the key the cuff slid open making him feel as liberated as he did the night he stepped into that swamp.

He sat up and fought the feeling of dizziness that seemed to accompany the action before stepping to the ground. With an arm around Mitzy’s shoulder, they walked out of the room and headed to the street behind the hospital where Mitzy had left her car.

"Get into the trunk and I’ll drive you over to the house. Just hide out like you did last time, only this time I suggest you concentrate on only grabbing Desi. Leave Harry and her baby to me to deal with, am I making myself clear?" Mitzy helped him down the walkway praying that they didn’t run into anyone.

"I appreciate all that you are doing for me," Byron reached down to the chest and pulled the I.D. tags closer to his face so he could read them in the dark. "Mitzy Stein. So I hope you don’t take this the wrong way," he moved his arm back to her throat and tightened his grip. "I don’t know why you have taken me for some sort of trained monkey, but you are going to listen to me or we are going to part company. Of course you will be dead, but that doesn’t matter to me. Where’s your car?"

"Let me go."

The quick action of Byron letting her go came as such a surprise that it made Mitzy lose her balance for a split second, but she smiled at the way he had listened to her. It’s what made the slap come as such a surprise to her. The slap that was so hard, it did make her lose her footing dropping her to Byron’s feet.

"You don’t seem to be very bright, so let me explain this to you." Byron picked her up off the ground by her hair ignoring the pain it was causing in his broken arm and in his gut. "I’m giving the orders here, not you, so I ask again. Where is you car?"

"It’s over there," said Mitzy pointing to her vehicle. He smiled when he heard the quiver in her voice that told him she was crying. The pieces were starting to fit into place and it made him happy to be back in control.

"Good, Mitzy, you are doing good. I don’t want to hurt you so you might want to listen to what I’m saying and I won’t have to hit you again. You ready to listen now?"

"Yes."

"Again, good. The first thing we have to do is go to your place and get me something besides this rag to wear." They stopped at the passenger side of the car and Byron took the keys away from her to unlock the door. Before he got in he looked into the medical tray that Mitzy was carrying and pulled out a few items before tossing the whole thing into a trashcan by the car. "Get in and slide over to the driver’s side. Before you think of doing anything stupid let me tell you about a movie I once saw. This guy takes a syringe," Byron used his good arm and his teeth to tear open the package he had fished out of Mitzy’s tray. "Then he pulled back just like this, and injected air into the big vein in this other guy’s neck. I’m no doctor, but let me tell you, it fucked that guy up so bad he died."

Mitzy stopped moving when Byron pulled back the plunger and put the needle end to her neck. She had released a madman who had no intention of honoring their agreement. "Please don’t hurt me."

"I don’t want to, so don’t make me. That was Desi’s problem all along, driving me to do things I didn’t want but had to do, just to keep her in line. How about a nice drive honey? Let’s go to your place and hang out for a while."

"I can’t do that, I have to get back to work." The hit this time wasn’t a slap but a closed fisted punch that rattled her teeth.

"The words ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t’ have disappeared from your vocabulary, understood?" Mitzy nodded as she wiped the blood off her chin. Now it made perfect sense why he had been cuffed to the bed.

The two drove through mostly deserted streets, each with a very different goal in mind now. No one in Mitzy’s apartment building saw them coming in, the fact starting her tears again because in her mind it was the last chance she had coming out of this alive. When the door closed Byron threw her on the sofa and sat in the chair opposite her.

"Here is our problem, Mitzy, I need some clothes but I don’t trust you to go out alone. Call me crazy but I’m thinking you won’t be so willing to come back, so here’s what we are going to do." Byron gave her directions and sizes on what he needed and how they were going to get them. After they had left the hospital she noticed that he seemed to grow stronger by the hour, going without painkillers or sleep.

"Thank you, Julie, my brother is staying with me and they lost his luggage. He got sick and I didn’t want to leave him alone." Mitzy’s friend stood at the door with a couple of bags believing the story she was being told since Mitzy looked so ragged.

"Sure anytime, let me know if you need anything else."

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"Thanks, Mom, I think that I can take it from here. Harry is playing with the workmen today so I thought I would get some work done. There’s that big gallery that needs to be filled and Tony is after me to get going."

"Don’t tire yourself out, sweetie. You sure I can’t watch Jack for you?" June walked with Desi to the studio at the back of the property. She hadn’t seen it yet and Desi had offered to give her a tour while Bobbie sat with Mona.

"If you can pry him off of Harry, then he’s all yours. I’m glad you and Bobbie are enjoying him as much as Raul and Maria seem to be. The fact he will have so many people around him that love him, makes me happy. Have you two given any more thought to moving here again? I know that Bobbie’s family is in New York, but that seems so far away for us to build on what we have already." Desi took her mother’s hand as they walked through the garden in front of the studio. There was nothing growing now, but the gardeners came anyway to rake and clean out all the leaves and dead growth on the shrubs.

"We haven’t made any decisions yet, but anything is possible. I want to know my girls again and I think Bobbie does to. It has never mattered to her that neither you nor Rachel are her blood, she has loved you just like I have." The first thing she noticed about the room was the painting that hung at its center. Desi had never told her the story of the rocker, but it seemed to play an important part in their relationship. "Is that the old house?"

"No, can you believe the woman that used to live here just painted it from her imagination. Harry liked it so much she kept it, only it stayed out here instead of in the main house." Desi ran her finger along the cypress frame thinking of how Harry must have felt when she had seen it for the first time here in this room.

"Why.."

"Why, out here?" Desi finished for her mother getting her to nod. "Because she told me it would have killed her to see this everyday when she walked in from work. The old swing upstairs on the deck is the one from the old house. Harry bought it as a birthday present for me last year. It was the first place that she worked up the courage to kiss me and tell me she loved me, so it holds special memories for us."

"Your father was such a jerk honey, to let that girl get away from you. Not that I’m any better, I should have come back sooner, damn the consequences. I try to reconcile it now and I just can’t. A mother should never leave her children no matter what." June sat on the edge of Harry’s desk and put her hands over her face to hide her tears.

"I don’t sit and try to analyze that too much, mom, especially now that I have Jack, I just figure that you did the best you could at the time. The time for bitterness is passed, not that I ever had any for you."

"How could you not."

"Because I thought you were dead, and how could that be your fault. If you had stayed there was a chance that you would have never been happy after Bobbie left. In my case, Harry was always there even when we were apart. There isn’t one beating that I regret now that I’m here, and know that she waited for me because she couldn’t forget what we had together." Desi pulled her mother’s hands away from her face and kissed her on the cheek.

"That must have been some kiss you gave her." June smiled through her tears and gave thanks again that despite her, her children had turned out to be caring adults.

"There might have been some heavy petting involved too." Harry stood at the door with Jack asleep in the carrier on her chest.

"You remind me of a certain doctor I once knew a long time ago." June put her finger to her lips as if trying to remember the name.

"Tall?" Desi asked.

"Definitely tall," answered June.

"Good looking?"

"Yes, very."

"What happened to her?" asked Harry.

"I married her and she still makes me laugh just as much thirty years later. While there was a large part of my heart missing because I left my girls behind, the part that I had to live with, was very well taken care of. You remind me of a younger version of her. Always quick to point out the better part of life no matter how serious the circumstances. My daughter is lucky to have that, and you are lucky to have found someone who can appreciate how precious that is."

"Thanks." Harry leaned over her son and kissed her mother-in-law on the opposite cheek Desi had just graced with one. She then turned to Desi, "Are you going to be all right for a while baby?"

"What are you up to, doc?" Desi leaned in for her own kiss, which Harry gave willingly.

"Nothing, I just need to borrow the baby for a minute. I promise to return him in the same condition he is in now." June laughed when Harry gave her one more kiss and walked out without further explanation.

"And you’re saying, they never change?" Desi asked her mother.

"No, dear, they don’t, and that is the proverbial double edged sword of falling in love with them."

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"They are a lot alike aren’t they?"

"It’s scary, but it’s nice to know how one of them will turn out any way."

"Yeah, our life together has been quite the experience."

"So have you given my offer any more consideration?"

"You want me to make a decision like that without consulting with June first?" Bobbie sat back in the chair across from Harry’s. They were having a beer together in the new house Harry and Desi had gotten, talking over what Harry had proposed to her the day they had signed the papers on it.

"Okay, let me put it this way, if it was just your decision, what would it be?" Harry kissed the small head under her lips again drawing Bobbie’s attention to her grandson.

"You are shameless, you know that right?"

"So my wife tells me. Come on, you know you want to."

"You’re right, I do want to. It seems like the perfect solution and if you promise to protect me from the wrath of June, my answer is yes."

"You won’t regret this, I promise."

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"I’m already regretting it."

"What’s you’re stake in all of this? You know what I want, but I’m not getting what your interests are here. Wait a minute, you want the doctor, don’t you?" Byron got dressed in front of Mitzy, getting a kick when he took the hospital gown off and she saw he was naked.

"I just wanted to help you, and this is how you repay me."

"Don’t think so, baby, you are one of those queers aren’t you?"

"The term is lesbian, and that is none of your business. Finish getting dressed and get out of my house." He moved quickly for a man with only one mobile arm and a stab wound in his gut giving Mitzy a matching cut on the other side of her lip.

"I’m getting tired of telling you this, Mitzy," he said her name in almost a singy songy voice that she found annoying. "I am the one giving the orders here, not you, now get over here and help me with this stuff." He handed Mitzy the underwear he had found in the bag and looked at her like he dared her not to comply.

"You can forget it, I’m not touching you." Mitzy threw the underwear back in his face before considering the full extent of the consequences.

Byron took a deep breath and moved his head from side to side cracking the bones along his neck before grabbing Mitzy by the hair again. "I said put the fucking underwear on me before I show you what you are missing by being a fucking pervert." She dropped to her knees before him when he pushed her down and laughed when she turned her head from the sudden erection he had. Putting on the underwear had suddenly become not such a problem for her.

Once the jeans where in place and she had cut the shirt to fit around his cast, Byron asked her for some tape. Not wanting any repeat of the dressing incident, Mitzy opened one of the kitchen cabinets and took out a roll of silver duck tape. Her captor waved her to a chair in the living room and she sat without saying a word.

When she came to from the vicious blow to her face, Mitzy found her hands and feet taped to the chair with another piece of tape stuck over her mouth. Lifting her head she could see Byron taking a nap on her sofa looking like a friend that had stopped by to crash for the night. Mitzy put her head down thinking how she could get out of this mess she had created for herself when the phone rang making her jump from surprise.

"Mitzy, this is Catherine from the hospital. There was a detective here this morning looking for you. He had some questions about one of the prisoners down in the Angola building that has escaped. I’m sure you don’t know anything about that, but I would appreciate you calling me and telling me what happened to you last night. Dr. Albertson was quite upset that the tests on the list of patients he left weren’t performed. If I don’t hear from you, I will see you tonight." The machine shut off after Catherine hung up the phone and Mitzy could hear it rewinding.

Why in the world would the police know to question me? I didn’t leave anything behind that would have identified me, and I’ll just explain my absence on the fact I got sick and had to go. Mitzy was so busy trying to think of anything she had done wrong that would point to her having set Byron free that she didn’t notice his eyes opening.

"Mitzy’s been a bad girl. Not even twenty-four hours after going astray and the police want to question you already?" His question was meant to mock her since she couldn’t answer him from the tape over her mouth. "What’s going on behind those hazel eyes Mitzy girl, trying to figure out why the cops are on to you, or are you trying to think of ways to kill me?" He got off the sofa and bent down so their faces were inches apart before he took the end of the tape and pulled hard.

The pain was excruciating when the skin on the cuts on her lips pulled apart with the departing tape, but she tried not to scream. Part of it was not to give him the satisfaction of showing pain, and the other was not to cause any more pain if she made too much noise. "There is no way the police are going to figure out I helped you. It’s your word against mine, and look at me. Who’s going to believe you?"

"Clever, clever girl, you got me. You know what the problem with you women is?" He paced before her not really wanting an answer from her. "Your problem is, you look at a guy like me and think you are smarter than me because all I do is fix cars for a living. All this modern crap about going out and working, achieving independence and finding yourselves, that’s what it is — a load of crap. Desi knew where to find herself, in the bedroom or in my kitchen. It’s not that complicated really, but a woman like you who thinks she has bigger balls than I do you are no different. You are as fucking stupid as the rest of them. Where is that special little key you brought with you genius?"

It was like a cold front that had started in her head and settled in the pit of her stomach. The realization that she didn’t need to reach into her pocket to confirm was true. She had put the key down on the table next to Byron’s bed to help him sit up and hadn’t put it back into her pocket. Would the man at the army supply store that had sold it to her remember her?

"Come on, partner, we are going for a little drive." Mitzy looked outside and saw that the sun had gone down again. If they were going to Harry’s and she found out Mitzy had helped Bryon escape, the doctor would never give her another opportunity to have a life with her. "Oh, and look at what I found while you were taking your little nap in the chair." Mitzy looked at the object in horror, things had suddenly taken a turn for the worse if that was possible.

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"Where did you get that?"

"A little bird gave it to me. I was thinking of framing it and putting it in my office. What do you think?" Harry asked as she held up an old photo of a naked Desi sitting in a tub of water.

"I’m thinking that if you want a close up view of that same butt, you are going to hand that over to me right now." Holding Jack to her breast with one hand, Desi snapped her fingers with the other hand to get the incriminating evidence from Harry.

"You are no fun."

"I was just going to put it next to the one of you running naked through the front yard in our photo album that your mother gave me. Stop pouting and hand it over, doc, it’s for your own good."

"How do you figure?"

"The sooner you give it up, the sooner you can come over here and hold the two of us," offered Desi. Harry handed the photograph over and moved behind Desi on the bed and took her into her arms. They didn’t hear the door open because of the kiss they were sharing and both of them jumped a little at the voice.

"Isn’t this a cozy family picture?

"What are you doing here?" asked Harry moving to cover Desi’s chest.

"I was checking on my patient oh rude one, and I thought I would see if the princess needed anything before I went home. Can I kiss the little guy good night?"

"Tony, a word of advice my friend, never separate a Basantes from a nipple under any circumstance. If you do, you do it at your own risk. Oof." Harry looked down at the woman who had just given her an elbow to the midsection.

"Are you sure she isn’t a man?"

"I’m sure, pumpkin, though her fascination with football leaves room for doubt." Desi laughed at the sour looks Tony and Harry were exchanging, ending with Harry sticking her tongue out at him. "Good night, Uncle Tony, come and kiss your favorite Basantes good bye."

Tony drove to the gate and stopped to check for oncoming traffic. He punched in his home number to see if Kenneth had made it home yet when he saw the car coming down the street, slow down and pull up in front of the Basantes home that was being renovated.

His own voce in his ear made him tear his attention away from the street for a moment. "Damn, I wonder if he’s screening calls or if he’s still at the hospital?" Tony talked to the steering wheel while he waited for the message to finish playing.

"Hey are you home?" He tapped his finger on the back of the phone waiting for Kenneth to pick up. The beep sounded in his ear signaling the end of his time to leave any further message. Tony turned his head back to traffic remembering the car that was still parked on the street.

The people were still sitting inside just looking at the brick fence seemingly not talking. There was just something about them that made Tony drive around the block to get a better look. St. Charles was one of the most visited streets in the city because of the grand homes, the park and Tulane University, but there were no attractions near Harry and Desi’s home. It was one of the larger homes granted, but the twelve-foot solid brick fence was a good privacy barrier from the outside world.

"Who are you?" The rest of the question died in Tony’s throat when he looked at the woman’s face. She looked so familiar to him, but her name eluded his memory.

Mitzy watched the car that pulled out of the neighbor’s gate turn around and come back. When the man slowed and looked at her, she recognized him and for a brief happy moment she thought he was going to stop. Instead he kept driving and turned a few blocks down.

"Hi, sweetie, could you put Harry on the phone for me? No, I promise it’s not to tease her anymore, I just forgot to tell her something." Tony had pulled into his own driveway ready for a bath, but the memory of that woman’s bruised face kept coming back to haunt him. So instead of giving in to his lazier side, he turned around again and headed back to the house.

"Hey, Tony, what can I do for you?"

"Are you on the mobile phone?"

"A strange question, but yes I am. What’s up?" Harry moved out of the bedroom not liking the tone of Tony’s voice.

"I was leaving and I saw this car pull over and park in front of the house next door. Wait let me finish," Tony interjected knowing Harry was about to say something flip. "The woman driving had some humdinger bruises on her face and she looked vaguely familiar to me."

"Bruises like she had been in an accident?"

"Bruises like she met up with the wrong end of a fist, if I had to guess from looking at her split lip anyway. I’m on my way back there now to sit with Desi and the baby if you want to go and check it out." Harry saw the beam of his headlights as she moved further away from the bedroom. There was something wrong she just knew it.

"Your parents aren’t home are they?" The thought had just occurred to Tony as he put his car in park and pulled the door open.

"Shit, come on." Harry walked back to the bedroom followed by Tony. The argument was inevitable, but Harry wasn’t going to back down. "Baby, Tony is going to stay with you for a little bit while I go next door to check on a few things."

"Why, what’s wrong?"

"Nothing’s wrong, he just saw some people parked out front that didn’t look like they belonged there and I’m going to see what’s what. You two stay here and I’ll call you as soon as I figure out who they are." Harry kissed Desi’s cheek before sitting to put her shoes on.

"I’m coming with you." Desi moved as well, intent on getting dressed to join her partner on her little walk.

"No, you’re not, and don’t look at me like that, this isn’t up for debate. I’ll have my phone so I’ll call if I need any help." Harry left after she tried to kiss Desi again, but the small woman had turned her face in anger.

"Sweetie, don’t get mad at her, she’s just looking out for you and the baby." Tony patted Desi’s shoulder trying to ease some of the tension in her body. Does stress curdle breast milk? Tony pondered the question wondering too if Desi was going to talk at all.

"I do not appreciate being treated like a child, not even by Harry. What good is all this talk about me becoming my own person, if when it counts I have to roll over and go along with what she says?"

"Desiree, I want you to stop now and consider what you are saying, and who you are saying it about. Because if you repeat that in front of her, you will never be able to take those words back no matter how many times you apologize.

People like Harry are a rare breed. They charge through life cutting away the obstacles for the rest of us to follow, but she does it to make your path easier, not because she chooses it for you. If you want to go in another direction then pick up your cane knife and have at it, and after an hour you will realize how nice her way is."

"I didn’t mean it as an insult."

"I know that, sweetheart, but think of how she’ll take it if you express it when you’re angry. Kenneth is the same way, so I understand what you mean, but his motives and hers are the same. They love us, so they leave us out of the struggle. It doesn’t mean that we still don’t have to walk our own path, because believe me they won’t carry us. The other part of this truth, I think, is that she gets afraid sometimes."

"Afraid of what?" Desi started to feel better, but the worry eating at her gut wasn’t abating.

"That she will lose you again, only now with Jack, it’s double jeopardy."

"That will never happen and you know it," said Desi.

"But does she?" The phone rang cutting through the silence Tony’s question had created and they both jumped at the sound.

"Desi?" The male voice asked her name as soon as she picked up the phone. Desi felt so sick she slumped into Tony when she figured out who it was. The only question was, what did he want?

"Yes?"

"Desi, is Harry at home with you?"

"No, why?" Tony was about to take the phone away from Desi if she got any paler.

"I don’t want to alarm you, but we think someone at the hospital helped Byron escape." Roger leaned out the car window a little and attached the flashing blue light to the roof of the sedan he was driving.

"I don’t understand what you just said. He tried to escape?"

"I’m sorry, Desi, he did escape. We are just trying to run down his accomplice. The shits heading the investigation waited ‘til’ an hour ago to inform my partner and me because of our connection to the case. There’s nothing to lead us to believe that he will be stupid enough to go back there Desi, and he’s hurt."

"That’s the problem with the police, Roger, they seem to overestimate Byron’s stupidity leaving him a step a head of you." The dial tone in his ear made him step harder on the gas.

"Where are you going, and what’s going on?" Desi’s demeanor and her tears were scaring Tony and he was at a loss hearing her short answered side of the phone conversation.

"Stay here with Jack, I have to go." Tony picked up the sleeping baby carefully not wanting to wake him. Making a quick decision he headed to Mona’s room.

"Don’t ask me any questions, but just try and not move around a whole lot and he should continue sleeping. Call Kenneth and tell him to come over here as soon as he can." Tony laid Jack by Mona’s side and piled pillows around him so he couldn’t fall off the bed. The front door of the house closing made him move faster, if he lost Desi, Harry was sure to kill him.

"Who do we have here?" asked Mona quietly as she put her hand on Jack’s back.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

"Where did they go?" The quiet of the street didn’t answer her question so Harry walked to the corner to see if she saw anyone walking to one of the other houses. When Harry was walking back to the gate she heard someone stumble on the other side of her fence.

She had walked next door wanting it to look like to the people in the car Tony had seen that she was just out for some exercise. It wasn’t hard to find since it was the only car parked on her block, the only problem was it was empty. The walk to the corner was equal parts to satisfy her curiosity and to walk off her hurt feelings when Desi had spurned her affections. It was the first time it had ever happened since they had gotten back together. Maybe she had overreacted and should have let Desi come with her. That thought disappeared when she heard the slight moan coming from whoever had fallen.

Harry moved to a spot along the fence where she could get a foothold up to the top not wanting to take the time to walk all the way back to the gate. From her perch she looked over their yard spotting the two intruders in the part of the garden she and Desi had shared their picnic all those months ago. It was dark enough that she couldn’t see their faces but from the outline it was a man and a woman.

"You fall again and you ain’t gettin’ up without the help of a big black bag covering you up." Byron pulled Mitzy to her feet for the fourth time since they had stepped into the yard. It was when he turned to pull her up that Harry’s blood ran cold. The cast he was wearing left little doubt to who he was without having to see his face.

"Papi, I am not going to repeat this so listen to me very carefully. Take Mami and Desi’s parents into one of the bedrooms and lock the door. Once you are all safe call the police and tell them that Byron Simoneaux is out in the yard of the house." Harry whispered into the phone while watching Byron walk along the garden like he was lord of the manor.

"Where are you, Harry, the police have been calling here trying to get in touch with you?"

"I’m on the top of the fence outside watching him move around. He doesn’t seem to be moving toward the house and he has a woman with him. Try and get in touch with Roger and tell him not to shoot me by accident when he gets here." She stopped talking when Byron and his lady friend reached a small teak table and chairs Desi had put out in the yard before the end of the summer.

"You can come down anytime you chose, but try and not take too long. I have pressing engagements I have to get to." Byron issued the invitation after looking in the direction Harry was sitting on the wall.

"Color me, surprised." Harry dropped down into her yard like a big cat falling from a high branch after a nap. "I didn’t think I made that much noise climbing my fence?"

"You didn’t, I saw your shadow in the yard and sat here to count my blessings. Seems God loves me after all like the song says. Come on, Harry, is it?"

"You can call me Dr. Basantes."

"I’ll call you whatever makes me happy, so sit down. I have someone here that is dying to see you. It was the least I could do after she helped me get out of the piss hole you left me in to recover." Mitzy became more afraid of Harry than Byron when the doctor looked at her from where she had dropped from the wall. The blue eyes had acclimated to the dark so there was no mistaking Mitzy, even with the cuts and bruises.

"Why are you here again, Bryon? Desi and the baby are gone. You have your freedom and someone to share it with I see, why not go forth and enjoy it?" Harry sat in the chair opposite him and put her hands on the smooth wooden top.

"I don’t mind going back to jail, even if the only way I will ever leave there after this little outing is in a pine box. Hell I parked right in front, no hiding this time around." For the first time Harry had known this man, he was dead calm. Almost like the eye of a hurricane since you knew the fury wasn’t too far below the surface.

"I told you, Desi and the baby are gone. Feel free to check the house if you like." Harry waved her hand to the structure behind them in invitation.

"No, I think this will do just fine. I didn’t come for Desi or your little bastard kid, I came to talk to you."

"You are wasting your time if you think that I will be baited into another conversation about Desi with you, it isn’t going to happen. If that’s what you came for, then you will leave to go back to jail disappointed." Byron looked at her hands spread out on the table; they looked like surgeon’s hands. The skin looked smooth and the nails were clipped neat and short. The silent question of whether Desi liked the way they felt on her naked skin made him close his eyes for a moment. All of a sudden Byron felt tired.

"There will be no fight this time, no argument about who she belongs to, just a solution to my problem. Don’t worry it is easy and it will be fast."

"What problem do you have, Byron?"

"You. You are my problem. You were there when I got married. You were there when I tried to make love to my wife. You were always there in her mind. She never forgot you, that should make you happy."

"Will it make it easier for you, if I told you I never forgot her?"

"Not really. What is it about you that women love so much? This one helped me thinking I would come over here and kill my wife so that you would be easy pickings for her." Bryon nodded his head toward Mitzy who sat quietly next to him. There were tears rolling down her cheeks because she knew what he had in mind to do, and it was making her sick. "You have her creaming in her pants."

"You are such a poet, I can’t believe you ever had problems attracting women." Harry was waiting for the punch line, any movement from him that would tell her what he was up to.

"I asked you a question, answer it."

"I love women, Byron, and all of the ones I’ve known can tell you that they never feared me. I never raised my hand to one, and I left them to be who they wanted to be. But for all the ones that have shared pieces of my life, they were only stand ins for the one I wanted. Desi is the one that has my heart and it doesn’t matter if she is in or out of my life, for her to always own it. I love her no matter what, even when she doesn’t listen to me." Byron never saw the slight flicker of her attention to the trees behind him. If he hadn’t been sitting there, the first thing Harry would have done was fuss because Desi wasn’t wearing a coat.

"Women like Desi don’t know what they want. They go through life hurting other people because they don’t know how to love. That’s how she treated me and now it’s time to punish her." There would be no more waiting for him to make his move it was done with stunning conviction. The gun looked so black against his pale skin.

Check mate. For the first time in her life, Harry felt true fear, and for the first time in his life Byron had played it right. In her seated position Harry would never reach his hand in time to change the bullet’s path from her head. "Any last words?" Byron asked her as he pulled back on the hammer.

"There is nothing to say that my wife doesn’t already know. I love her and our son, and I’m sorry I failed you. Don’t forget that you will never be alone, but think of our little boy now. He needs one of us." Her eyes never left Byron’s face, but she was addressing the woman behind him, the woman that was now crying and being held back by Tony.

"Touching, if Desi ever contacts me I’ll make sure she knows."

The shot was so loud that Mitzy covered her ears, and the blood was everywhere. From her position, Desi closed her eyes and fell back into Tony and just sat stunned. The first thought that crossed her mind when she heard the gun go off was not to what Harry had just said to her, but to her turning away from Harry’s kiss not an hour before. Desi closed her eyes not to stop the tears that had started, but to wipe out what she had just seen.

Harry was gone and she had just watched it happen. How could she face Jack when he asked about the woman that he looked so much like?

"Desi, honey, look at me." Tony’s voice sounded so far away, and she didn’t want to open her eyes again to see what Byron had done. "Please, Desi, you’re scaring me."

"I can’t."

"You can’t what, baby?" It was her imagination Desi was sure of it. The feel of Tony’s body felt so different, it felt so much like Harry’s. She wanted to never wake up from this if it was just a dream, if it was the only way she could have Harry back.

"I can’t look at her like that, I don’t want to remember her like that."

"I’m right here, baby, open your eyes for me." Desi obeyed the gently command, finding her vision blurry from all the tears. The tears turned into sobs when she felt the lips touch against hers, and this time she didn’t turn away.

"But I saw him shoot," said Desi a little confused as to what had happened.

"His shot went a little off target when someone else’s bullet tore into him first, his just grazed my neck a nick." Desi ran her fingers over the small cut on Harry’s neck trying to wipe away the blood she found. "Did you two come packing heat or something?"

"That would have been me," said Oscar, Roger’s partner. He still had his weapon and his eyes drawn on the slumped body about twenty feet away from them waiting to see if there would be any further movement.

"Thanks, Oscar, I owe you one." Harry let go of Desi and moved to Byron. Nothing would have made her happier than to find him dead, but the years of training kicked in.

The bullet had entered through the shoulder of his broken arm, and Byron was alive but not conscious. Beside him Mitzy appeared to be in shock as to what had happened. Harry and Kenneth laid the injured man on the ground after Roger had removed and bagged the gun still clutched in his hand. When the ambulance arrived Harry started to take Desi up to the house to wait for the police. She wanted an explanation as to why Byron and Mitzy were sitting in their yard with a loaded weapon.

"Harry." Mitzy’s voice wasn’t very strong but it stopped the surgeon cold.

"Is there something you want?"

"I didn’t mean any harm. I just thought he sounded so sincere when he said he wanted to talk to his wife again before he turned himself in." Roger and Oscan both listened to what the woman was saying, trying to figure out how she fit in with Byron.

"You saw me when I arrived at the hospital with an almost shattered leg, and you can stand there and say, you meant no harm? You lying, bitch! Just for the record Mitzy, I am not married to Byron any more." Desi stopped talking and picked up Harry’s hand. "I am married, only it’s to her. Deal with it."

"Harry?" Mitzy’s second call went unanswered as Harry led Desi away to the house followed by Kenneth and Tony. The two men that remained by her side were interested in speaking with her.

By the end of the night both Byron and Mitzy were in custody facing a long list of charges, and the young Basantes couple walked back to their new house confident that they were now safe from Byron. Jack was still asleep next to Mona, and the woman didn’t ask what had happened after seeing the haunted look on Desi’s face.

"Baby, this is not your fault, stop beating yourself up over tonight. We are both here, Jack’s safe and Byron is gone." Harry moved behind Desi and put her hands on her shoulders. After feeding Jack, Desi had walked to the large bank of widows that overlooked the yard and seemed lost in her own nightmare.

"It wasn’t that long ago that we thought Byron was gone for good and look what happened." Desi turned around in Harry’s embrace and put her fingers over the bandage Kenneth had put on her partner’s neck before he and Tony had left.

"The fact Byron escaped twice - yes I’m not forgetting that - is in my opinion an anomaly. An anomaly that is certain to never occur again, but if you let yourself get bogged down in possibilities, you can miss out on so much living." Harry kissed her and walked over to the bassinet where Jack was sleeping. They had decided to put off his move for another couple of days.

It’s so hard to do that," said Desi as she pulled Jack’s blanket up to cover him better.

"Baby, William James once said ‘Life is worth living…since it is what we make it.’ This is the life we are making." Harry waved her hand around her ending up with it resting on the bassinet. "A life that has so many things to look forward to. Think of us raising children, going to your openings and just waking up together until the chapter of this life comes to an end years from now."

"You promise?"

"I promise."

"Then come on, doc, let’s start on a new page of our story." Desi led Harry toward the bed, unbuttoning her shirt as they walked. It felt good to come out the winner in these situations. Desi thanked whatever deity listening for the path Byron’s bullet had taken. As he sat in jail, he could use its trajectory as the definition of all his actions against her and Harry. Close enough to do a little harm, but not close enough to cause pain. Not anymore.

Concluded in Part 11

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