New Winslow S7E52
Cleo didn’t want to be at the apartment when Edie left for the tour. So instead, she was at her mother’s suite at Oakmont Residencies, watching a movie together as the rain came down outside.
“Edie’s leaving on tour,” Cleo said during a lull in the action. “So I’ll have the apartment to myself for a while. Do you want to come by and see it? I can drive you.”
Her mother nodded. “Please,” she said, still looking at the TV. “That would be nice.”
“We can get a pizza and hang out.”
That seemed unlikely, but she’d never had her mother over to her apartment in Dorchester. So even the idea of having her there at all seemed a little unreal. They’d met up about once a year, closer to New Winslow but never actually in town. Not until she’d been moving into her mobile home and Jenna had rattled Cleo so badly that she offered to go home and help before realizing what she’d done.
Though she would have done it anyway once she heard how overwhelmed her mother sounded. Even if she’d been completely grounded and happy on the phone, Cleo would have eventually caved to the impulse to help her mother. She always would have ended up back in New Winslow. And now she had to accept that she was going to keep going there and keep risking getting stuck. Even now that her responsibility to her mother no longer made it necessary.
Three pm. Edie was probably meeting Ryan and Tyler in Allston right now, just like they had when they left on the East Coast tour last year. Maybe even at the same Starbucks. She hadn’t talked to either of them since the breakup. Not that she’d talked to Edie much either. This morning’s conversation had essentially been just the basics of the tour schedule and how to reach Edie in an emergency. They’d danced around saying any I’ll miss yous before Cleo left to meet her mom for lunch.
Her phone buzzed with an incoming message.
If THEY WANT TO STAY SAFE, TELL THEM TO STOP.
Cleo tucked her phone in her pocket, nausea twisting in her stomach. Her mother looked over at her with a smile and clear eyes.
“I want to see your house,” she said. “It’s ten minutes from here, right?”
Then she muted the movie and gazed out the window. “I’m sorry about Edie,” she said softly. “How can I help?”
Cleo was a little surprised she remembered, considering how quickly her dementia had been progressing over the past year. And she was even more surprised when her mom took her hand and held on. “It’s okay,” she whispered, not looking at Cleo, but running her thumb down the back of her hand. “You’ll be okay.”
The general store wasn’t too busy, so it was the perfect time for Olivia and her mother to bring Mia for lunch while the guys managed the Limerick. Mia loved the general store, but didn’t do well sitting at a table for more than a few minutes at a time. Letting her walk a little was a lot easier when the store wasn’t crammed full of people.
“Mia, come back,” Olivia’s mother said, motioning for the toddler to start hurrying toward them.
Mia fell on her butt after about five steps and Olivia braced herself, trying to keep her face bright and cheerful. “It’s alright!” she said. “Up you get!”
“That little girl is getting so big!” Tara Stevenson called over to them from where she was restocking chips near the cash register. “Look at her go!”
Olivia’s joke about outgrowing clothing died in her throat as the front door opened and Charles Baxter walked into the shop. Baxter looked terrible. He was pale, nearly gray, and his shirt was limp and wrinkled. He moved across the store like he was sick. And maybe he was, but Olivia was pretty sure she knew the truth behind why he looked so sallow and worn. And she couldn’t bring herself to feel bad for him.
“Hello Charles,” Tara said, standing up and moving behind the register. “What can I do for you?”
He hadn’t seen them over here and Olivia wanted to keep it that way. She’d had so little interaction with him throughout all of this and the idea of facing him, especially with Mia and her mother here, made her stomach turn. Baxter turned away from them, saying something to Tara, who let out a bright laugh.
“Are you alright?” her mother asked as Olivia pulled Mia onto her lap.
“Fine,” she said. “I’m fine. We can’t…not here.”
Her mom looked grave and Olivia noticed the way she angled herself just slightly between Liv and Mia and where Baxter stood at the register ten feet away. Mia’s fingers were jammed in her mouth, but she clearly picked up on the change in mood as her own little smile faded.
Baxter finished his order at the counter and Olivia hoped that maybe they’d get away with not seeing him at all. But as he turned to fill his coffee, he looked over at her. His eyes were lined and bloodshot, but the anger was unmistakable. He didn’t say a word, just glared at her. Olivia’s eyes ached, but she wasn’t going to look away first. She couldn’t be afraid of him.
Or, at least she couldn’t show it.
Finally he looked away, filling his coffee with careful movements. Without looking at her again, he walked out the door.
“Honey?” her mother said.
Olivia looked over and she could tell her mom was trying to look upbeat, hiding the concern that was visible just under the surface.
Noah had two orders going out on delivery, but he needed to make sure they were all complete before he headed out. Just as he was opening the first steaming heat bag to check its contents, the phone rang behind him.
“Got it,” Celine said, reaching behind him to grab it. “New Winslow House of Pizza, what can we do for you?”
There was a long enough silence after she spoke that Noah turned around, curious. Celine’s expression was stony. “Who is this?” she asked, a chill in her voice.
More silence. “If you ever mention my children again, you will be cutting off your own face, do you understand me?”
Noah looked at her in alarm. “Don’t ever call here again,” Celine snapped.
She slammed the phone down, her hand shaking despite her fierce words. “Celine,” Noah said, deliveries forgotten. “Are you alright?”
“Fine,” she said, waving him off. “Some creep. I couldn’t get a read on him over the phone.”
“Andrew and Iris have been getting calls too,” Noah said.
“Are you kidding me right now?”
He shook his head. “It’s Charles Goddamn Baxter,” Celine said. “I should go over there and kill him right now.”
Noah had no doubt that she could. But before she could follow through with that threat, her cell phone was ringing in her apron pocket. She pulled it out and answered, still shaking. “Hey, babe.”
He could hear Roman’s voice, but it was too quiet to understand, just a fierce murmur over the line. “I just got one too,” she said, her voice lowered. “I know.”
She started to say something, but he must have cut her off. Celine nodded for a moment. “Iris and Andrew got them too,” she finally interrupted. “It has to be him.”
A pause. “They’re at home. Jamie’s taking them for the evening while I’m working.”
“Bring them here.”
Noah heard that loud and clear and when Celine looked at him, he could tell she knew. “Can you-” she started.
“I’ll stay as late as you need,” Noah said.
Celine pulled out her car keys. “Let Charlie know,” she said, then ran out the door.
After telling Charlie what had happened, Noah headed out on his delivery. As he pulled away from the front of the House of Pizza, he called Andrew.
“Hey,” Andrew said, sounding so pleased to hear from Noah that despite everything, his breath caught.
“Hi,” Noah said. “Listen, something just happened here that you need to know about.”