Sweet Liar (Montgomery/Taggert 18) - Page 111

Pulling the child behind her, Joe’s canvas pouch in her hand, Maxie went back to the dressing room. There, secreted under what looked to be a pile of clothes, was her fat little traveling purse, filled with things she’d need for the coming journey, and hidden in the lining was an inch-thick stack of hundred-dollar bills, all the money she’d been able to save from years of waitressing and singing. She didn’t hesitate as she took the money from the purse and wrapped it in one of Lila’s rayon blouses that was hanging on the back of

a chair.

“Who is your mother?” she asked the child, trying not to convey to him the sense of panic that was building within her, but not succeeding.

The child had no idea what she meant. His mother was his mother and no one else.

Maxie took the child’s chin in her hands, maybe a little harder than she meant to. “Tell me the truth: Is your mother a good mother?” Maxie had had too much experience with bad mothers to trust a woman just because she had the near-holy title of “mother” attached to her.

Again, the child didn’t understand her.

Exasperated, Maxie said, “Does she beat you? Is your house clean? Do a lot of men spend the night in bed with her?”

The boy’s tears started again. “She doesn’t hit me and she’s always cleaning and only my dad sleeps in the bed with her.”

Feeling guilty and wanting to comfort the boy, Maxie knew she couldn’t. Like bile rising in her throat, she knew that time was running out and she had to get to Mike and get out of this club.

She thrust the bundle of money into the boy’s hands. It was everything she and Mike had, and she had no idea what she and Mike were going to use to travel on or to set up housekeeping with, but she couldn’t think of that now. Right now she knew that the most important thing in the world was to get her and Mike out of here alive.

“Give this to your mother,” she ordered. “And tell her to get out of New York. Now run as fast as you can. Tell her she has to leave tonight.”

After a few red-eyed blinks at her, the boy scurried out of the dressing room and ran out the back door of the club. For a moment, just a tiny moment, Maxie stood and watched him leave before she turned back to the dressing room.

But she didn’t enter the room, because Doc was standing there, and in his hand was a pistol with a very large opening in the end of the barrel. Without saying a word, he motioned her into the dressing room.

It would be difficult to describe Maxie’s feelings at the time. She didn’t feel terror as she would have thought, only a dull heaviness, because she knew that her life was over. A man like Doc wouldn’t allow himself to be cuckolded without punishing the perpetrator, and she had no doubt that he knew about her and Michael. Maybe it’s what she deserved, she thought, because she had agreed to his rules and she had broken them.

Silently, he stepped into the room behind her and locked the door with a big key that she hadn’t known existed. Wanting to be brave, wanting to face death with her shoulders high, Maxie turned to him, her back to the long, garishly lit cosmetic counter and faced him as he took a seat across from her

“How did you find out?”

With a little smile that made Maxie shiver, he shrugged, obviously not planning to enlighten her.

He’s enjoying this, she thought, looking at him. My God! he’s enjoying this! Nothing else in life gives him pleasure or excitement, not sex, not food, not people who love him, nothing pleases him but this, knowing that he is going to kill someone—having absolute, life-and-death control over another human being.

Knowing that now she had nothing more to lose, she said, “Why did you kill Joe?”

Again Doc shrugged. “He was too clumsy and he was of no more use to me.”

“As I am of no more use to you?”


Taking a deep breath, her hands behind her, she braced her body against the edge of the countertop and felt Joe’s blood drying on the front of her dress, stiff and loathsome. “You’d better get it over with. The girls’ act is almost finished and they’ll be in here soon.”

Doc’s smile widened. “No they won’t.”

It was as though the blood suddenly drained from Maxie’s body, and her first thought was of Michael. She didn’t know what Doc had planned, but she knew it involved Mike.

Without thinking what she was doing, she lunged for Doc. He was little and scrawny, but he was strong, and with one backhand slap, he knocked her to the floor.

Slowly, painfully sitting up, blood coming from the corner of her mouth, she looked up at him. “Kill me,” she whispered. “Do it now.”

Still smiling, Doc said softly. “Not yet. You’re going to die more than once tonight.”

At first Maxie thought he meant he was going to torture her, but in the next moment she heard the first blasts of the machine guns and the accompanying screams. In terror, at first uncomprehending, Maxie bolted for the door, meaning to go to Michael, but the door was locked. For a moment tearing at the knob, pulling frantically on it, she turned to Doc. “Give me the key,” she screamed, barely able to hear herself over the sound of the machine guns and the screams of both men and women coming from the ballroom floor. “If you have any mercy in you, give me the key!”

But Doc just sat there with that enigmatic little smile, watching her, as though he were fascinated with her actions, as though he were a scientist observing a very interesting species of animal.

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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