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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:58

“I tried you last Wednesday but—”

“I didn’t have my phone on,” he said. “I haven’t until recently.”

“Well, then, let me be the first to welcome you back to the living.”

Matt smiled and ran his hands through his hair. I need a haircut, he realized. No doubt one of the many millions of things he needed to do when he was done with the courtyard.

“What’s going on, Dad?”

“Well, I got an interesting visitor this morning.”

“Not the stripper, again, she—”

“Richard Bonavie. He’s back from the dead. Well, Los Angeles, actually, but I think that’s a different story.”

Matt sat down hard on the cement steps, feeling like his gut had turned to lead. The gems—he’d forgotten all about them. His whole reason for coming here, and they no longer mattered.

He watched her, the sun in her hair, a smile on her face.

So much had changed, so much was different, and he didn’t care anymore, about the gems, the theft. A month ago, he’d been determined to get justice, but now this information left him cold. Sad, even. Sad that his father was who he was. The kind of man who’d been lured into a scheme that was way over his head then had gotten burned.

Matt heard the scratch and flicker of a lighter and his father took a deep breath and exhaled, smoke no doubt a cloud around his head. “You won’t believe what Richard—”

“Dad.” Matt sighed. His father was excited, juiced up about whatever this news was, and Matt wished there was a way to tell him he wasn’t interested without hurting Joel’s feelings. “I don’t want to know.”

“I don’t want to know. I can’t fix this for you, Dad. I can’t…I’m sorry.”

“Son.” His father’s voice was warm and Matt put his hand against the tree, wishing there weren’t miles and steel bars between them. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.”

“Yeah, but I got your hopes up—”

“My hopes?” Dad laughed. “I’m out in six months for a crime I committed. Finding out where Vanessa and Richard are or what they did that night wouldn’t change that.”

“Then why…?” Matt trailed off, a big chasm closing in his head, his chest. He knew why his father sent him here—the answer was in his past. “Remember when I was a kid and you’d take me to those casinos?”

“I’ve already apologized for that, Matt. I can’t change the mistakes I made.”

“I know, but remember that game, the man with the scar and the patch and the hat?”

There was a long pause and finally his dad said, “Yes, I remember.”

“Because you were scared. Because you were bored. Because you’ve got a real big brain, son, and without something to occupy it, you’d go crazy.”

Matt leaned back, looked up at the bright blue sky. “That’s why you told me about Vanessa and Richard.”

“You were so lost, son, after that accident. I couldn’t stand watching you fade away like that. I was losing you, and I knew that if I could get you interested in something again, anything, you’d find your way back.”

Matt squinted at the horizon, feeling emotion bite hard at the back of his eyes. “Thank you, Dad.”

“I can only guess that you’ve figured out that clearing my dirty name isn’t going to change what happened in St. Louis.”

Nothing would bring back Peter. Or fix the lives of all the people affected by the collapse. Nothing would stop the occasional nightmare that woke Matt shaking and screaming in the night.

“I’m working on it,” he finally answered.

“Look, I know I haven’t been an ideal father—” Matt snorted.

“But I care about you, I always have. I’m glad you’re putting it behind you.”

Matt’s heart flexed and stuttered. He couldn’t argue. For all his father’s many faults, not caring about Matt was not one of them. Joel wouldn’t win any father of the year awards, but he’d been there. At least there had been Rachmaninoff and card games and dinners and warm beds.