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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:44

With a shaking finger, he turned off his phone.

He rose, bathed in a pool of moonlight, the dark around its edges so black it seemed like the floor might end. Stepping out of the pool would mean a certain fall and he felt as though he’d been held in this spot for too long.

He was here, at the Manor, with these women day in and day out, waiting, but what the hell was he really doing for his father? Nothing. Being a handyman wasn’t bringing justice to anyone. It was only giving him blisters.

The floor creaked over his head as they got ready for bed. He could talk to them about Vanessa, right now. Tell them about what people in town said about her, ask if it was true.

He was reluctant down to his feet to hurt them, but he needed to do something, anything. Standing here in the dark, tallying the bloody mistakes he’d made would drive him out of his mind. Maybe he was halfway there—half mad with all of it already. It was the only explanation for what he was doing.

He forced himself to remember his father in his prison cell, sitting on the thin bunk owning it, holding court, like it was the high stakes room at the Bellagio. Just thinking about it was a gut punch. Seven years for a crime he hadn’t committed alone.

Other people needed to be punished.

Unbidden, he remembered the girlfriend’s graveyard eyes. The splotches of blood like ugly rust-colored flowers on her sequined gown.

The way she screamed and screamed and screamed when the ambulance took her boyfriend’s body away.

He was here for justice.

And justice didn’t care who got hurt.

With a cool head, he decided to look for a safe. Talking about Vanessa had gotten him exactly nowhere and bringing the town gossip into it wouldn’t help.

The sounds of Katie’s and Savannah’s voices filtered down through the old floors and he knew he had to wait until the house was asleep before starting his hunt.

He turned on the camping light and picked up his sketchbook. He flipped past his sketches of the repairs and quickly went to work on a sketch of the interior of the house, which was basically two squares built on top of each other around a central courtyard.

On the first floor, he knew there was a living room and a kitchen and, considering the age of the house, he took a reasonable guess about plumbing and put a bathroom on the second floor above the kitchen.

An hour and a half later the house was silent, dark and heavy with the dreams of sleeping women. When he was sure he couldn’t be caught, he began his search.

The old wood floors creaked, soft spots like rotten bruises on a peach under the rugs in the hallways. With every creak he winced and waited for the sound of Savannah’s footsteps thundering down the stairs. They never came. Either she was sound asleep or the creaks weren’t that loud.

He hadn’t done any sneaking since he’d been a kid, and he felt ridiculously out of practice.

In the living room, where the cops had been that morning, he checked the walls. Running his hands under the paintings, he found nothing but plaster and spiderwebs.

He took a step into the center of the room, glancing around for other places a safe might be concealed only to realize that all the paintings were of Margot at various ages and various stages of undress.

One, illuminated by a shaft of moonlight like a searchlight, was a young Margot, staring over her shoulder. She looked so much like Savannah it was eerie.

Forcing himself to turn away, to keep his mind on what he was here to do, he left the room.

Savannah’s office only revealed a landslide of papers and enough computer equipment to launch a spaceship.

Research, he remembered from his investigator’s reports, Savannah was a well-paid researcher.

Where does her money go? he wondered. Certainly not into the house. Savannah drove a nothing special car, wore nothing special clothes. No jewels, very little makeup.

Granted, Margot looked like a woman who demanded a certain amount of money for upkeep.

And, he thought, taxes on a house like this might be a pretty big chunk of change.

But still, it didn’t seem to add up.

He wondered what she looked up on those computers while at the same time trying to convince himself that he truly didn’t care. That knowing her, or wanting to know her any better, was in direct opposition to finding out the truth.