Anthony closed the phone book with a sigh. An air of dread surrounded him when he could not find her name listed. Had she remarried? Was she dead? Who was taking care of his daughter? He adjusted the towel around his waist and ran his fingers over the tattoo on his chest. Whenever he thought of her or his past he found the need to touch it, a reminder of how far he had come.
He looked in the mirror wondering if she would recognize him. His job had required him to stay physically fit and he thought he looked good for his age. There were a few wrinkles on his face where there had been none when he left, but that was to be expected with age. Some of his jobs took him to the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America where the sun was not a man's friend.
He got dressed, his wristwatch and patch the last items he put on. There were times he wished he had let the government pay for reconstructive surgery for his eye. They had offered but he had refused. He believed it went with the image he was trying to present in attempting to infiltrate the O'Boyle family. A man who had the scars to prove he had experiences in life was convincing if he wanted to get close enough to the heads of the family. With the patch and his hair just a tad too long, Anthony looked like a righteous bad ass.
The suit he had flown in was hung carefully in his room's closet. This was vacation so jeans, T-shirts and his leather coat were all that Anthony planned on wearing during his stay. For all he knew he would only be here for a couple of days, but he had prepared for the possibility of staying longer.
"Forever," he whispered. His voice carried wistfulness with that word, unsure he would get the chance even if he wanted it. He had opened this can of worms and was on the verge of not being able to go back territory. Once he set foot in the Salem Police Department building all hell could break loose and his wife's brother might very well try to kill him for real this time. He had not hesitated to take his eye so many years ago. Anthony doubted his brother-in-law would hesitate to take him out for deceiving his wife and daughter for so long.
Patting his coat pocket to ensure he had both car keys and his room's swipe card, Anthony drew the door closed and walked down the hallway to the exit where his car waited. He was not in the mood to get down to business so he decided to take a bit of a drive instead.
He drove past the house she grew up in, the building where his first apartment had been, and finally the building the loft was located in. He got out of the car, closing the door and glanced up to the roof of the building. More tears threatened to fall as memories of his time in Salem came rushing back.
"Sweetness," he whispered. It was the pet name he used for her and it had gone unsaid from his lips for too long. He entered the building, pushing the up button on the elevator. He knew she would not still be living here, the loft would be too small for both her and a teenaged girl, but he wanted to see it. He had to see if it looked the same and who lived there now.
"Excuse me," he said as a brunette pushed past him as he stepped off the elevator. She did not respond, merely huffed in apparent frustration that the elevator was not taking her downstairs in a quick fashion. He chuckled lightly. Was he always in such a hurry when he was her age? He could not remember, but guessed he probably was.
He reached the loft and was now not so sure this trip down Memory Lane was a wise one. He placed his hand against the door as if touching it would bring him back to those days when he was in love and things were so much simpler. He never believed a love so true and good existed until she came into his life. The women in his life before her all had their own agendas. She had an agenda he supposed, to get him to drop his walls and let her in. She had gotten her wish and in the end he had hurt her terribly.
He liked to think successfully bringing down a mob family was worth it, but now that he was here again he was no longer sure why he had done it. "To protect my family," he whispered. They were threatening to expand to the Midwest, to Salem. He could not sit back and watch that happen. His daughter's life was better, safer because of his efforts. At least he thought so.
The door slid open unexpectedly and Anthony retracted his hand quickly, startled. It was not like him to let his guard down so completely. He stared at the blonde standing in the doorway. Stuck in the past for a moment he was not sure why a stranger was answering the door. "Stephanie?" he asked.
"Can I help you?" the young blonde said.
"I, uh, I guess I have the wrong apartment."
"Well, I know everyone who lives here and there's no one named Stephanie."
"I was looking for someone who used to live here. Sorry to have bothered you." He shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather coat and grabbed onto the rental car keys. He clutched them in his fist to clear his mind.
"I know you, don't I?"
"No, I just made a mistake."
"I know I do," she said as Anthony turned to walk away. "Wait, don't go."
"Listen, it's the wrong apartment. Okay?" He turned to regard the girl. She was biting her lower lip as if she was thinking real hard on something. She was cute in a innocent-girl-next-door kind of way. "Just forget I was ever here."
"You're Shawn's uncle."
"What?" he asked, unsure he had heard her right? He remembered when Shawn Douglas was born and presumed that was who she was talking about.
"Shawn Douglas. You're his uncle right?"
"You've got the wrong guy."
"No, I don't. The patch on your eye. It kind of gives you away."
"Lots of guys have patches on their eyes, Sweetheart."
"Yeah, but not all of them come to this loft looking for someone who used to live here. You're looking for," she paused as if thinking. "Oh, I can't remember her name. Shawn's aunt, the one who just moved back from California."
"Ah ha, I knew it," she said with a smile, clasping her hands together and bringing them to her chest.
"I didn't admit to anything."
"But you didn't deny it either. They're going to be so excited you're here." She frowned then. "What are you doing here? You're dead."
"I guess death isn't as permanent as everyone says it is."
"So you've been alive this whole time? I mean, I've only seen pictures of you."
"Who exactly are you?"
"I'm Belle Black."
"John's your father I take it?"
"And your mother is?"
"Marlena," she said, as if he was silly for asking the question.
"Of course. I was sorry to hear about your mother."
"Yeah, that's why I'm here."
"So are you back in Salem for good? This is so exciting. I can't wait to tell Shawn I was the first one to see you."
"Listen, let's keep this between us for now, okay?"
"Oh but, you're here, I mean you do stand out a little with the patch and stuff. You've come to help find my mom, right?"
"I, well, yeah I'd like to if I can. She was always a nice lady."
"You knew her then?"
"Yeah, yeah I did."
"And my dad?"
"I thought he was found."
"Oh he is, I was just asking. I guess you get curious what your parents were like before they had you, you know?"
Anthony smiled slightly at that. "Yeah, I guess some people would." He was not one of those people. His father had been a bastard. His mother had been a good woman despite her troubles. "Can we keep this visit our little secret? I'm not sure how my sudden return is going to be received and I'd rather word didn't get to the wrong people."
"You mean your wife."
"Yeah and my little girl. Do you know her?" Belle shook her head and Anthony felt disappointment. "Well, I got to go."
"Wait. Steve," she said and it startled him. It had been so long since he had heard his real name that it actually gave him pause. As far as he knew only one person in the Bureau knew his real identity, though he imagined there were more pencil pushers that might have access to that information.
"That's not my name. I don't go by it anymore anyway."
"Oh, well, that's the only name I know. Have you eaten?"
"Have I what?"
"Eaten. It's lunchtime. I was making some soup and a sandwich. If you want to I can make another."
"I guess I thought you were on your way out."
"Well, you opened the door."
"Oh, I thought I heard someone out in the hallway, so I was wondering who was out there."
"Yeah, some girl just left, seemed in a hurry. Brunette."
Belle grimaced. "That would be Jan."
"I take it you two don't get along?"
He laughed lightly. "Thanks for the offer of lunch but I really shouldn't."
"Why not? I can fill you in on some things and well, at least you know I'm receptive to seeing you."
"Why not," he said with a shrug and walked toward the door. He stopped at the threshold, hesitant to go in.
"How long has it been since you've seen the loft?" She seemed to know what he was thinking and he wondered how someone so young could be so insightful.
"I don't know," he admitted. "I can't remember. I've spent so long not thinking about it I'm not sure what memories are real and what I've made up because I suppressed the others too well."
"Well, come in. It's nothing special, I wasn't planning on company."
He started to walk in, but at the last minute realized he could not do it. He could not avoid seeing Bo and the others forever, and he was not going to hide behind a twenty year old girl either. "I can't do it," he said, giving her his most charming smile. "I'm sorry, Belle, thanks for the offer of lunch but I really have to get to the station." He turned and left, walking to the elevator, but of course the car was downstairs from the brunette having ridden downstairs in it.
"You're nice to offer, but if your father found out I spent time with you before telling him or anyone else I was back."
"Yeah, I suppose that'd be bad."
He smiled with a shrug. "Maybe you can catch me up some other time."
"I could take you to see my dad in the hospital."
"Yeah, he was hurt, his legs."
"Well, he's promised to be up and walking for my wedding."
"When's that?" he asked.
"About a month from now. Philip's being deployed."
"Philip's your fiancé?"
"Yes. Maybe you can come."
"I doubt I'd be welcome, but thanks for asking."
"Well, if you change your mind, the invitation is open."
"Thanks," he said as the elevator doors parted. "Maybe I'll see you around. It was nice to meet you Belle Black."
"You, too, Steve."
"It's Anthony. Steve's dead."
"If you say so," she said with what he thought was a rather coy smile as the elevator doors shut to take him downstairs.
"Next up, the Salem PD," he murmured as he took his keys out of his coat pocket. He was not looking forward to his first meeting with his wife's brother but it had to be done. Anthony and Bo had a long and complicated past that began long before he had come to Salem. It was Bo and his thirst for revenge against the man who had taken his eye and flawed his face forever that had brought him to Salem to begin with.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com