Read Callahan's Fate Online

Authors: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Callahan's Fate (6 page)

He brought a swirl of cooler air with him,
and the fresh scent cut through the lingering aroma of their meal.
 
His cheeks were slightly flushed, and he
grinned as he flourished a bottle of wine.
 
“I’m back! Can you grab it and put in the fridge to chill?”

Raine
took it from
his hands. “Sure, but it feels cool now.”

“It’s turned a lot colder,” he said,
rubbing his hands together. “Is your hair dry yet?”

She fingered it. “Yes, I think so.”

“I want to show you something, then, so
c’mon.”

Her fantasy of a quiet evening spent
drinking wine and maybe making out might not come true. “Where are we going?”

“Up, doll, up to
the roof so you can see the view.”

 

 

****

High places bothered
Raine
.
 
She had forced herself to deal with them, but
if she looked down, panic struck hard with the powerful force of a rattlesnake.
 
For a moment she considered trying to brave
it out, but then she caved. “I’m not very good with heights.”

Callahan sounded surprised. “You scared
of being up high?”

“Yes,” she admitted. “I’m sorry.”

He cupped the curve of her cheek with
one big hand. “Don’t be.
 
We don’t have
to go up.
 
I just thought you’d like to
see the city at night.
 
It’s one helluva
view, and there’s a four foot high wall around the edge.
 
You won’t fall.
 
Even if you could, I wouldn’t let you.
 
Wanna
give it a
try?”

She parted her lips to refuse, but
something in his eyes changed her mind.
 
It’s important to him so I will.
 
“Okay,” she said. “I trust you, but stay
close to me.
 
And if I freak out, can we
come back down immediately?”

Cal’s face lit up. “You bet your ass we
can.
 
Put your jacket on, doll, and let’s
go.”

Hand in hand, he led her out of his
place, down the corridor, and they rode the elevator to the top floor.
 
They exited through a door onto the
roof.
 
Raine
had expected something out of a 1940s movie, a barren space with a pigeon coop
on one end and broken bricks underfoot.
 
Although not large, the roof offered a smooth concrete floor, the walls
Cal had mentioned on all sides, plus a couple of small patio tables with two
chairs at each.
 
The round water tower
with a conical top found on most buildings took up some space.
 
So did a couple of chimneys and the elevator
shaft.
  

He led her over to the side and used his
free hand to wave at the nightscape. “Here’s my city at its’ finest,” he said.
“Isn’t it pretty?”

In every direction, skyscrapers and tall
buildings sparkled with light.
 
Illuminated window squares shone bright into the darkness.
 
Many had closed shades or drapes, but others
were open, offering a view into other people’s lives.
 
One structure a few blocks away had a spire
that changed colors, shifting from iridescent blue to a bright green, then to a
softer red.
 
Raine
forgot her fear as she gaped with wonder at the city spread out around and
below her.
 
To the west, she saw a river.
“Is it the Hudson?”

“Yeah, you got it. And look, right
there, it’s the Lincoln Tunnel,” Cal replied.
 
He pointed with one finger. “Across the river, that’s Jersey, and if you
look over here, you can see the sign for The New Yorker Hotel.”

Above, a jet banked and dropped lower
for landing.
 
She followed its path, and
he noticed.

“Flight patterns for both JFK and
LaGuardia pass overhead,” he told her. “And if you’ll notice, the moon is rising.”

She spotted it, a huge orb shimmering
with radiant light, and smiled.
 
“Back
home at this time of year, sometimes it can be almost orange,” she said. “Where
are all the stars?”

Cal laughed. “It’s hard to see them here
because of all the city lights.
 
You have
to go out to sea or into the country to get a good view.
 
I guess you can see them back home.
 
Where are you from, again?”

“Missouri,” she said.

“Oh, yeah, St. Louis,” he cried. “That’s
home to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arch, right?”

Since she came to New York, everyone
said the same.
 
Raine’s
reaction combined exasperation with amusement. “I live about as far from St.
Louis as possible,” she said. “I’ve been there, sure, but I grew up in the
southwest corner of the state.
 
I lived
at Springfield before I came here, but I grew up in a small town where yes, you
can see the stars.
 
They fill the sky at
night like thousands of diamonds and sparkle.”

“That sounds pretty.”

“It is.” A rush of homesickness struck
her with force.
 
Raine
longed for the rain-clean air of home, the lingering scent of wood smoke, not
traffic exhaust, on the wind.
 
She wished
for open skies, the stars, and trees reaching toward the heavens, not tall
buildings.
 
She missed the familiarity of
the place where she’d grown up, as different from Manhattan as if she stood on
Mars.
 
Her breath caught in her chest,
and to cover her angst, she leaned over to peer down at the street view.
 
Despite the hour, vehicles filled the lanes,
their taillights bright red streaks as traffic moved forward.
 
The constant sound of horns blasted through
the night, and everything below seemed so very small.
 
A sense of vertigo swamped her, and a sudden
dizzy turn made her head spin.
 
She
uttered a wordless cry and stepped back.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” Callahan
said.
 
He put his free arm around her
shoulder. “You okay,
Raine
?”

If he hadn’t sounded worried, if his
deep voice didn’t offer comfort, she would have been fine, but his concern
lowered her defenses. “No,” she said.
Raine
turned
toward him and buried her face against his shoulder.
 
Then she cried, and Cal held her tight.

All the tears she’d held back for so
long erupted, and every sob she had swallowed down in the past few months broke
loose.
 
She wept hard, her body shaking,
and vented all her loneliness with force.
 
As she shed tears, he cradled her close.
 
Callahan rubbed her back with one hand and talked her through it.
 
At first she didn’t pay attention to what he
said, but as her outburst began to ebb, his steady flow of words calmed her.

“Hey, doll, don’t you worry.
 
You
ain’t
alone
anymore.
 
You got me, you hear? And I’m
not going anywhere.
 
I know this city is
a big place and it’s probably confusing as hell for you, but there’s a lot of
good here, too.
 
People look out for each
other, at least some of them.
 
You told
me you hoped you made a difference with the kids you teach.
 
Well, I bet you do, because you already made
a difference with me, more than you know.
 
Easy, easy does it.
 
You cry it
out.
 
My grandma, she always said tears
were good for the soul, and she’s right, God rest her soul.”

As
Raine’s
sobs eased, he began to sing.
 
His voice
was a rich tenor, not the bass she had expected, and the lyrics of the song
were beautiful, something about angels watching over and a refrain that
repeated the words, “hear the wind blow.”
 
It reminded her of “Down
In The
Valley,” a folk
song her grandmother had sung to her, but the words were much lovelier.
 
Listening, she calmed, and when he finished,
Raine
lifted her tear-stained face to him. “That was
awesome,” she said. “What’s the name of the song?”

His lips curved into a small smile. “Ah,
it’s ‘The Connemara Cradle Song,’ an old lullaby from Ireland, something else
my Gran gave me.
 
It always soothed me,
and I thought it might help.”

She touched his face with gentle
fingers. “It did, a lot.
 
You’re full of
surprises, Callahan.”

He snorted. “I try, anyway.
 
What happened? Did you get scared of being up
high?”

Raine
shrugged. “I
looked down, and yes, I was a little frightened, but mostly I just had a
homesick moment.”

Cal used one finger to gently wipe the
tears from her cheeks,
then
delivered a light kiss to
her mouth. “Are you okay now?”

To her surprise, she realized she was.
 
A brisk wind blew across the roof, and she
shivered. “Yes, but I’m cold.
 
I bet it
frosts tonight.”

“Maybe in Central Park,” Callahan
said.
 
Then he laughed and hugged her. “I
know the frost is on the pumpkin and all that back where you come from, but here
frost doesn’t do much except ice a few windshields.
 
Do you like the view?”

Her eyes scanned the broad vista, and
she nodded. “I do, Callahan.
 
It’s like
Christmas or New Year’s or something special.”

“Aw, you’ll get used to it,” he
said.
 
The way he ducked his head made
her think maybe all the emotion had embarrassed him. “Let’s go inside before we
freeze and drink some wine before I start singing again.
 
Some stray cat might start yowling or
something.”

“I doubt it,”
Raine
told him. “Some of those angels you sang about might join in, but no cats.”

Although he shook his head, she caught
his smile.
 
He liked the compliment, no
matter what he might say to the contrary. “I doubt I’ll be asked to sing at
Madison Square Garden or at the Met anytime soon.
 
C’mon, doll, let’s go in.”

****

After the chilly interlude on the roof,
she savored the warmth of his apartment.
 
While he opened the wine and produced two dusty glasses, which she
insisted he rinse,
Raine
chose a movie from his small
selection.
 
His tastes seemed to run
toward action and adventure movies—no real surprise—so she chose one of the
Wolverine
movies with Hugh
Jackman
.
 
They
settled down together on his couch and she slipped out of her shoes so she
could tuck her feet under.
 
Cal handed
her a glass of wine and they touched the rims. “
Slainte
!”
he said.

Slawn
-cha?
Raine
had no idea what it meant, but she did her best to
repeat it. After her first sip of the sweet, full-bodied wine, she asked. “So
what’s that mean?”

Callahan met her gaze. “Good health, in
Irish,” he said. “It’s Gaelic, or whatever you want to call it.”

They drank wine and cuddled, as they
watched the fast-paced movie.
 
About
thirty minutes into it, she cuddled closer and shivered. He put his arm around
her shoulder. “Are you cold?”

“A little,” she said.

“No problem,” he said. “I can fix
that.
 
I got steam heat.
 
It runs hotter than the devil’s backyard.”

He put the movie on pause and tinkered
with the radiator until
Raine
heard it begin to
hiss.
 
Warmth soon emanated from it, and
she relaxed against him.
 
After the
second glass of wine, a delicious calm descended over her as she relaxed.
 
Her taut muscles eased, and her bones all but
melted.
 
Her languor turned to drowsiness,
and she thought she’d begun dozing when his cell phone rang with loud, shrill
insistence.
 

Raine
recognized the
opening notes of Billy Joel’s “
We Didn’t Start The
Fire,”
as she stirred.
 
Callahan pulled the device from his
pocket.
 
“Yeah,
whaddya
want?”

Although she couldn’t make out the
words, she heard a definite masculine rumble.
 
Cal laughed. “Yeah, I’m alive, asshole.
 
You can play poker without me this week.
 
I’m busy.”

He listened,
then
repeated. “Like I said, I’m busy.
 
You
firefighters can fleece some other cop this time.
 
I
ain’t
coming.”

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