Content warning: contains a rather disturbing suicide scene. Also, implications that a character said a racial slur that I feel dirty even referencing.
“Dennis, Dennis, I can’t understand you,” Annette said. She gave a look at Delvin and whispered “it’s an emergency” at him and scrammed from the site.
“Come on, I know it had to have been bad, but you need to stop crying,” said Annette, as she ran down the road. “I dunno. Put Lolly on the phone.”
So he did. Lolly had a coherent voice in the face of whatever emergency faced them. In fact, she sounded more disappointed than anything.
“What he’s been trying to tell you is, well, there’s been a death,” said Lolly. “It’s my mum.”
“Silver’s gone?” Annette asked.
“It…I…I really wish it didn’t have to happen the way it did.”
It happened just an hour before that. Someone locked the door to the old master bedroom, and the loud sound of it activating alerted Dennis. The only bedroom with an automatic lock was that one, and the whole family made an agreement not to sleep in there after Max’s death. But the way the lock worked was that it locked people inside, not out. All he had to do was turn the handle.
He may have expressed some defeated disappointment to Silver over what he learned about her. Fucking the town behind his back. But Dennis made it clear, he could work something out! The both of them were too old to piss and moan to each other until death. He forgave her without conditions and expected a compromise. Instead, she gave him a gruesome sight.
Her makeup ran down her cheeks. Silver got one of the old handguns out of storage earlier and greeted Dennis with the barrel pressed against her temple.
“It’s a lie,” she whimpered. “There is no money from him. He duped me, Dennis.”
“Honey, please don’t do this,” he begged. “My dad is the one who deserved to die here. He might have duped you, but who cares about that! I forgive, just…just put that down. I still want you.”
Lolly got upstairs around that time, and when she saw the scene, she hoped to help where her dad couldn’t. But she had little to say.
“Lolly, Dennis, I’m sorry,” Silver said. “But I can’t live with having fucked y’all up”
She pulled the trigger without hesitation. Her dead body crashed against the bed.
Lolly would have called sooner if it wasn’t for trying to calm her sobbing father down. He insisted on making the call, but it was clear to everyone involved: nasty slut or not, he lost the person he loved the most.
“So the funeral’s on Friday. I think she would have been okay with you there,” said Lolly. “And my dad might feel better with the support.”
“Yeah, forgive me for having some hangups over going to funerals at your place again,” Annette said. “But you can always ask your brother! I’m sure he’ll be sad.”
Annette went home and Shark had gotten the news by then. He shrugged. “You know I’ve been through worse. I can take this one just fine.”
They assumed that Silver got a final farewell without them anyways. Some of her many sexual partners had to have harbored good feelings for her, right? But even though Annette skipped the funeral, she dug into her thoughts and little shreds of remorse. Yes, maybe she felt bad for Silver. Only fucking that gross old man in hopes of money she never got. Duped by him. Maybe that would have been her herself, if Annette had met him at a different time in her life.
Also, loss sucked.
That settled it. She needed to show the family some heart, in her own way.
Annette chose the good way. For one morning, they went back to the nostalgic days of Annette’s free breakfasts, albeit with mushroom omelettes instead of pancakes. She even dug up the old floral tunic she liked to wear when she was younger, just for the occasion. It was for the best. Annette could focus on something she loved, and the other two could discuss the future. In spite of her recent engagement, Lolly had no plans to move out, and felt uncomfortable and out of place living with her fiance’s nerdy roommates, so why not stay there? Dennis deserved better than to die alone in his huge mansion. She also needed a wedding venue, and Annette could talk to her later about that.
Right after her eggs were done cooking, Annette answered the text message she got a minute prior. It was through the temporary phone she used to contact Delvin, and all she expected was progress.
Deed’s done. Killed your n-
I’m not reproducing that message in its entirety. Disgusting. The gist: Delvin had his own plans for securing Annette’s place at the diner. His own plan was to kill Mary to force the ownership onto a weaker boss. He went through with it, and demanded payment for his task. Also, a racial slur.
“No, I didn’t hire a hitman. No, no, I didn’t ask for her dead. Fuckin’ Delvin,” she muttered to herself. The color drained from Dennis’ face as he looked over at her.
“Annette, what did you get yourself into?” he asked her, with a shaking voice. “Annette, please. I need to know this. I just want to make sure…Annette…please tell me you didn’t hire him.”
She bolted off, into the parlor, and hid behind the wall. But Dennis knew his own house too well.
“There was a reason I didn’t bring you there!” he snapped. “Because I knew you’d think the wrong way about him. I knew you’d try and do this.”
“I wasn’t expecting this either. You didn’t tell me who he was either. All I knew was ex-PI,” said Annette. “That’s all you told me in the van.”
His face was scrunched in anger at her, but Dennis’ eyes started to water. “Damnit Annette, I can’t take this right now. I have too much to deal with already.”
“So what about me, huh? Honestly, Mr. Dennis Racket shouldn’t have much to say about someone who only did a few things for herself. I never ran a mafia, Dennis!” The tears finally came for him.
“So what is it?” she asked him, in a strained whisper.
“What sort of advice is that?”
“He’s my older brother. Used to be on the police force. Maybe he doesn’t know you yet, maybe he can give advice, okay? He wanted to think he was better than us, but I knew he turned a blind eye to a lot. He…he can do it to you, but just…leave me alone.”
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll find Dudley. Whoever he is.”
Bill begged her to not do it when she mentioned it to him later, but Annette gave him a peck on the cheek and assured him that she would come back with her freedom. After all, Dudley had retired from the force years ago and couldn’t do much to her or even to the family members he knew and hated.
He lived near the swamp, in a rough-looking house that could fit one lifelong bachelor and no more. Well, that worked for Dudley. His dingy brown pickup truck was parked outside.
Annette greeted him at the door, with a friendly wave and a “Howdy!” It was the only greeting fit for a man wearing a cowboy hat. He had a wooden cane too and leaned on it a slight bit, which told her enough about why he was retired. Plus, Annette could survive a beating with that if it came to her getting a beating.
“You know, I swear I’ve seen you ‘round here before,” he said. “Who are you again?”
“I thought you’d know if one of your brothers married a demon. It’s something that usually gets people talking.”
Dudley stamped his cane on the ground to startle Annette, and try and get her off his porch. “Tell ‘em that me coming back wouldn’t happen 30 years ago, and it sure as hell won’t happen today! They oughta be thankful that I kept myself out of their dirty work and rich neighborhood. Stay out of mine.”
She tried to calm the old man down. “Christ, I don’t have anything to do with your feud. I just want some advice.”
He gave her a sour look. “Advice? You think I know anything about selling whores that the others don’t?”
“It ain’t that. It’s about my own issues, ‘kay? You know what, forget about the others. I’m just a good southern girl looking for advice from a wise old officer. So today, I’m not Bill’s wife, I’m just another neighbor.”
“Wait, are you implying that…he’s hitched?” Dudley asked, going calm again.
“Kinda recent, but, yeah. But we’ve been together for a while before that. Like, wow, over a decade now,” she said. “You…you really didn’t know that?”
“I can’t say that I wanted to keep tabs on them. But that’s actually kinda funny. He’s gone soft. I guess you’re better than you sound if you can do that.”
“So I might be. And you thought I married Dennis instead?”
“Well, I’ve been hoping that he’d divorce that woman for a long time now. Has he?”
Annette blinked once. “Uh, awkward subject. I notice you have a gorgeous tea set on that table, though. And I love a good cuppa, especially because I’m now a force of good that has done the impossible.”
“When you put it that way, I think I can make that happen.”
“So I did something wrong, and without their help,” Annette said, staring into her cup of cheap orange pekoe tea with a twinge of disgust. She spent so much on fine tea at home, that she ran off to her brother-in-law’s for that? She took a few sugar cubes out of the sugar cup and hoped for the best. “I mean, I came here to do something better than selling t-shirts on the beaches of Delmarva.” Part of me thinks she barely could locate Delmarva on a map. “So I thought, well, I could own a good business here in Terrebonne and do something I love. But that fell through, and that’s why I’m here.”
“Just spit it out, Annette. I can’t issue arrest warrants anymore,” Dudley said.
“Fine. I work at the diner, and I really want to inherit that place. I want to own it so bad. But no, one of the other girls is next on the list. So I got this ex-PI involved. He said he could definitely find something on her, so that she’s out of work and I have a diner. But instead, he up and kills the original owner!”
“What, you have one on your most wanted list?”
“We have a few of them across the state.”
“Delvin Armstrong, then?”
Dudley’s face froze, and he put his teacup down on the table. “That’s horrible, Annette.”
“So I take it he’s pretty infamous,” she said.
“I dunno how he was marketed to you, but we get so many reports ‘bout him. Usually stuff like murders and racial hate crimes. And you thought he was going to get you out of this cleanly?”
“I was never told that. But that explains, well, the message he gave me.” She drew out her phone and gave it to him, with the message open. “See? The n-word and everything. Now I feel that guilt thing that everyone tells me I should feel.”
“You basically hired a hitman,” he said, in a grave tone. “And I can’t help you with that. All I can say is that maybe you will live to see the end of your sentence when he won’t.”
“I mean, that’s what I was hoping to avoid,” said Annette. “I have things to do! I have a house to run and a young child to raise, four pets, a troubled nephew? You can’t dislike me that much. I’m your rich, kindly, attractive sister-in-law. That has to give me some privileges, right?”
“You can’t win me over in one afternoon.”
“But, don’t I do a lot of good for the town too? Imagine the menu items they’d lose without me. The English full breakfast special, my famous stuffed French toast? Pulled pork omelettes?” Dudley seemed to perk up at the last item.
“Wait, those omelettes are yours?” he asked her.
“Yeah. First thing I brought over there.”
He stopped just to smile at the thought of them. “Oh my, those are my favorites. And for this whole time, I thought that Mary was behind them. But it’s you. I dunno how my vile family got someone with that much good in their hearts.”
“Well, even if they were Mary’s idea, she’s not behind them now because she’s dead,” said Annette. “So what can we do? I want justice, but Delvin’s the one who needs the ass-whooping. And I’m just the innocent rich girl who made a mistake.”
“Yes you are, with those omelettes of yours. I can put an anonymous tip to the state police, if you’re okay with that.”
“You’d really do that for me?”
“It’s for the nice reward they have posted too,” he said, with a chuckle. “But yeah, for justice. And for someone who does some pretty impossible things.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes to keep those things on the menu. And, you know, you’re family. Later in the summer, my son turns five. There’s a pool, there’s homemade cake, and all those things will keep Bill in line so you two don’t kill each other.”
Dudley smiled. “I think I’ll do all that just to see my little nephew. Bill having a kid…now that’s something I gotta see to believe.”
He kept true to his promise. Annette didn’t see him swim, but she did see Dudley coo over his little nephew for a bit. From what she heard, it was a marked improvement over how he treated his other two niblings.
The whole turning tide for the Racket family dynamics made Annette laugh that afternoon, even as Bill lowered Franco toward the candles to blow them out.
She stopped once she saw how darn cute her two favorite men were together.
But speaking of Dudley and the other young-ish Rackets, he made an attempt to get on better terms with them. Getting reintroduced to Lolly and also to Justin, her fiance, went over well. Everyone being under the influence of a couple of beers a piece helped too. He then turned to Shark and asked “so is there a special lady in your life?” Lolly snickered at such a question.
Shark leaned back in his seat, disappointed. “You’ve really been out of the loop on the family for a while, haven’t you?” he asked his uncle.
“You were twelve last time I saw you. I guess I am,” said Dudley.
“And I came out when I was 14, so there you have it,” said Shark.
Annette only heard the conversation because it managed to be louder than hot tub jets and her and her husband sucking face. She couldn’t blame Dudley, though. She herself wouldn’t have guessed her nephew to be gay on first glance, and the situation about his special someone…Annette thought it out. The gossip stripped the names from the weird news tidbit of “gay relationship with a huge age gap, how bizarre!” once it got on Dudley’s radar. Yeah.
But considering that Dudley had to have given the state police a tip about Mr. Armstrong by then, he wasn’t her concern. Just a passing thought as she got groped by Bill under the water.
No, they shared the hot tub that afternoon. Amy and Sinbad needed time to soak as well, and the former had already gotten used to being in close proximity to her landlords while they felt each other up.
Although Sinbad looked content, for once, while looking at his feet prune up in the water, he did whisper to his girlfriend about other concerns. “It’s just, I don’t want to be in here if they start doing it or something. Is this normal?” Amy nodded.
“You can tell when things get too far.”
Annette needed to take a breath of air, and decided to prolong it by talking to Sinbad more. Sure, she wasn’t able to convince him to join the clan earlier, but it was August! Times could change in eight months!
She started with a toothy smile. “You like our pool, Mr. Rotter?” He nodded. “Well, you could have it all the time if you changed your mind about me being some weird cultist. I didn’t choose this either.”
“So I’m going to have a demon drag me down with her? I’ll pass.”
“But come on, think of Amy! Far as I’m concerned, she’s your first serious relationship in a while. And you’d ruin it just to avoid living with me for the rest of your short life?”
He put on his serious face. “How about you don’t bring her into this? She’s your friend, not a bargaining piece. In fact, I bet she’s appalled to hear this, right, Amy?” She looked like she was spacing out for the last few minutes, though.
“Oh…um…sorry honey, didn’t really catch that,” she said.
“Well, either way, I can always use an extra set of hands in some way,” said Annette. She looked over her shoulder to see Dudley still trying to win over his niblings. “Like, you know, picking up some extra hours at the diner. Being my busboy.” She wiggled her dark eyebrows at Sinbad to drive the point home.
“Sounds okay,” he said.
Amy leaned back in the hot tub, with a defeated frown. “I kind of wished you’d drop this and be a locksmith or a tattooist instead, you know?”
“We’ll see, babe.”
As Sinbad had to reconsider parts of his life, Annette leaned back into her husband’s arms and watched the pool. She could at least make an attempt to be a hero if someone drowned, right? But no, the people of Twinbrook could swim. Instead, there was something nicer to watch.
Indeed, Franco enjoyed that pool slide now that he was a bipedal, swim-ready child. Good thing that wasn’t a waste of money.
A/N: What, you think I’d forget a Racket and pretend that Dudley didn’t exist in the game at all? That’s funny.
I think it would have been too easy to characterize him as a force of pure good, though. Much like I can’t portray Bill or Dennis as being particularly malicious. I’d dare say that all three of them are close together on a “morality scale.” They all harbor rather negative feelings about their family business and realize that it’s bad, but manifest those feelings in different ways. And why else would the Rackets still seem to be intact, even when a former insider against them has all power to stop them? Simply: Dudley just wanted out. He still has some corrupt Racket tendencies (bribes and nepotism!), but just in a different setting.
And being on the police force means nothing as to whether a character is good or not. Sorry.
Dudley isn’t dumb either. He probably blocked out any news of the family at all, as I implied. Like, all of it.
So, other things:
- Pulled pork omelettes are real and were truly the best use of leftovers I have ever devised. But an internet search shows me I’m not alone either. My personal recipe was a filling of pork, reheated mashed potatoes, and…some sort of mild cheese.
- Delmarva is one of the closest fake states I’ll have to a real state mentioned in this story, and one of the few that doesn’t follow my “county -> state name” convention (unlike Terrebonne, Middlesex, San Mateo, and so on). As for any speculation about whether she actually lived in Delmarva or not…idk man.