For the month of January, I will post a chapter at a time of First, I Love You. That will be at least half of it–around 150 pages of the paperback book. I think this gives people a feel for the different style of writing I have in that book, which is written almost like a third-person memoir and each chapter is from the point of view of one of the six main characters. That’s tough for some to swallow as a concept, but a significant majority of those who’ve read First, I Love You have said they ended up enjoying it.
When I started it, I wanted the reader to get to know the thoughts and personality of these people in the first book before I hit the ground running with the story I had to tell. Second of All (Downey #2) and Third Time’s The Charm (Downey #3) have their own “feel” and “tone”, and the chapters are not constrained to each person as in First, I Love You. Second of All contains a lot of flashbacks (ala Godfather II), and is more introspective and romantic than First, I Love You. Third Time has a more suspense feel to it.
First, I Love You was the first book I ever wrote, and telling that story was both cathartic and emotionally wrenching. As many authors have found out, there is a difference between having a story to tell and actually writing it. I have learned a great deal since the day I sat down to write First, I Love You in January 2012.
I am going to post the first three chapters today (in separate posts) since that is the standard sample size. Then I will post a chapter every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday for the remainder of the month. I hope you enjoy getting to know the Downeys, along with James and Ginny! If you are enjoying the story, please spread the word to your friends and/or add it to Goodreads! Thank you!
FIRST, I LOVE YOU
By Genevieve Dewey
Copyright 2012 by Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to living persons is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Warm breath billowed out in front of Tommy Gates as he stood outside the Hoover Building on a chilly February morning. He could feel his heart beating staccato and wondered, as always, at what point would the others’ eyes change from welcome camaraderie to mistrust, and sometimes, disgust. Even those that didn’t question his loyalties remained wary of what associating with him would bring. It made him feel like a little boy again, instead of a twenty-five year old man, standing to the side of the playground wanting desperately to be picked next. Wanting to fit in. To belong. To be part of a crew.
Guess that’s one thing me and the old man have in common, Tommy thought.
A quick puff of air warmed his face as he chuckled in humor. Ignoring the sick, squirming, uncertain feeling in his stomach every time he thought of his father, he straightened his shoulders and carefully arranged his face into a practiced mask of indifferent confidence.
“Fuck ’em,” Tommy huffed softly, and entered the building.
Past security, a sea of faces and bustling bodies blurred in his usually observant mind as he made his way to the room number written in an untidy scrawl on the back of a business card. He didn’t bother knocking and instead quietly slipped inside the room. It was a relatively small conference room with an oblong table in the middle, but no one was sitting at it. They were all standing along the walls, except for two men standing in front of a portable screen full of pictures and flow charts. At the front of the room, Agent Jack Underwood didn’t pause in his speech but his tired, intelligent eyes seemed to light up slightly at the sight of Tommy’s entrance.
No one else appeared to notice Tommy had arrived, or were too polite to make a point of it. Tommy took a moment to scan the room and assess the competition. Colleagues, he mentally corrected, colleagues. He could easily spot the Feds. He could always spot the Feds, even in this modern version of the FBI. There were about a dozen people in the room, including the two up front, and the Home Team were standing as a unit on the right side of the room, while three odd men out kept at least two feet apart from each other on the opposite side like they were waiting to be picked for Red Rover.
Some things never change, Tommy thought.
As Tommy glanced back towards Jack, he thought he caught a sardonic twinkle in the eye of the agent standing next to Jack at the front, as if he shared in the joke. Federal Marshal, maybe? The few he had met never seemed to recognize themselves as swimming in the same Department of Justice pool. It was doubtful he was a fellow lowly law enforcement officer sent here to be a cog in the wheel of yet another Joint Task Force for Patting Ourselves on the Back. He pursed his lips and mentally took himself to task. It wouldn’t do to start out the thing with a chip on his shoulder. He should be thanking his lucky stars his friend and mentor had listened to him, recommended him, no doubt fought for him to be here today. He was startled from his thoughts by the sound of his name.
“Tommy, glad you could make it! Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to my colleague Detective Thomas Gates of the Omaha Police Department. His extensive knowledge of Organized Crime and his underground contacts will no doubt be of great benefit to us. I’ve already briefed him on where our case stands. He’ll be working with myself and Agent James Hoffman of the DEA for the next few months in Chicago,” Jack Underwood said with a smile.
Jack gestured to the casually dressed man who had shared the conspiratorial look with Tommy. Agent Hoffman grinned, showing deep set dimples that seemed to accentuate his relaxed body language and the humor in his blue eyes. His dark complexion suggested some Middle Eastern or Northern African heritage.
“The Director has agreed to appoint Special Agents Dino D’Amato and Ginny Sommers from the Organized Crime Section to be our FBI liaisons here in DC.”
Jack nodded to a swarthy, sour-looking middle aged man on the Home Team dressed in a classic suit and a pretty blond haired woman around Tommy’s age, dressed in slacks, formfitting sweater, and the most impractical heels he had ever seen a cop wear. It wasn’t hard to guess who played ‘Bad Cop’ in their interrogations.
“Detective Gates, if you could come up here and give us a quick overview on what your department has been able to gather regarding the trafficking activity in your area?”
Tommy smiled at Jack and walked forward to stand in front of the mix of Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and a few select detectives that made up a newly formed human trafficking task force. Its members had been chosen from various larger task forces to assess the scope of a growing trafficking ring stretching from New York to Chicago along the lakes. The recent bust of a truck on the I-80 corridor in Nebraska carrying half a dozen pre-teen girls had clued Tommy in that the geographical scope of this ring was rapidly expanding. But the terrified girls weren’t talking, even with their Russian translators, and his boss at OPD felt there was no reason to suspect a larger, more organized operation was at play here. Were they being smuggled in? Perhaps. But sold on the black market? Tommy had no proof – yet – but a gnawing sensation in his gut told him that the two were connected.
But being newly made detective, against quite a lot of resistance, his ‘gut’ didn’t get much traction. Still, he was pretty sure the Russian Mafia were smuggling young girls and boys into and out of the country and using the well-trod drug routes to do it. This had to mean they were working with either the Drug Cartels or the US Mafia, maybe even both. He had bypassed the call to the Omaha division of the FBI and tipped off his old family friend, ‘Uncle’ Jack in Chicago. He knew Jack would take him seriously. Just as he had when Tommy had decided to become a cop, a dream that never would have happened without Jack’s pull. Looking at the curious, slightly skeptical faces staring expectantly at him, he thought of the only piece of advice from his father he valued, ‘When in doubt, bullshit ’til you believe it’.
It was later in the week, just as Tommy was beginning to relax, that the other shoe dropped. He and James Hoffman were walking side by side in front of Dino D’Amato and Ginny Sommers on their way to a favorite lunch hangout of the local law enforcement. Tommy was anxious to get out of DC and head to Chicago with Jack and James, but he didn’t want to jinx the progress he had made with the Task Force, so he kept up his mask of enthusiasm. They had just begun to hammer out a functional working relationship in their subunit in spite of the often clashing egos in the room and he desperately needed the connections and clout of the federal arm to bust this ring.
He didn’t mind Ginny and James so much, but Dino seemed to suspect there was more to Tommy’s story than the one he had carefully rehearsed when asked about his life back home. Dino just would not let up asking questions about Tommy’s background. Tommy had to give him credit; Dino was a good cop and could smell an obvious omission a mile away. Too bad he had all the charm of a horse’s ass.
“Is it just me, or is there a limo following us?” James asked, voice brimming with humor and a practiced sort of ennui.
Tommy frowned and kept his eyes straight ahead as he quickened his pace.
“Oh, well spotted. Not bad for a DEA slag,” Dino mocked.
“Look, can you two not bicker for five seconds? Aren’t we all on the same side? Isn’t this about interagency cooperation?” Ginny asked in a slightly breathless tone.
He could hear her struggling right behind him to catch up in her heels. Why the hell did she wear those damn things? Tommy thought.
“Which question should we answer first, Agent Sommers? Do we get milk and cookies after?” James bantered, turning around to her with his easy smile.
The man probably has the ladies falling all over him, Tommy snickered to himself and turned to share a grin with James. Unfortunately, turning his head towards James gave Tommy a clear view of the street and the limo in question and he knew with a sinking feeling it was the one he feared most.
He wouldn’t do this to me, he wouldn’t, Tommy thought.
“Best bets? Senator or ambassador. It’s a nice ride, right down to the bullet proof glass and the armor plated sides.” Dino said, dismissing the sleek black limo with a bored tone in his voice.
“Yes, Agent D’Amato, but as Agent Hoffman has already pointed out, it is following us. Why?” Ginny asked, showing the first signs of losing her perky attitude.
Tommy sighed and tried to think of a graceful way to duck his new colleagues – had he dared think potential friends? – long enough to put off the inevitable just a little bit. His scrambled thoughts were interrupted by the slow snick of a window being lowered.
“For God’s sake, son, are we going to do this all day? Get in the car, I need to talk to you,” Mickey Downey said, arching a dark eyebrow, his emerald green eyes full of implacable command. His cold gaze swept briefly over the Federal Agents and dismissed them just as quickly.
Tommy felt rather than saw the stiffened shock from Ginny and Dino as he stopped and faced his father. They moved behind him, but James remained where he stood between Tommy and the limo. Tommy knew they needed no introduction to recognize one of the most notorious mobsters – make that allegedly ‘retired’ mobsters – in the country. One of the few Irish mobsters allowed to rise to the highest ranks in La Cosa Nostra in New York. It was universally accepted this was due to his completely ruthless nature, ability to make scads of money, and the fact he was the son of a gangster who was the son of a gangster of the original so-called ‘Gangs of New York’. Michael Downey had grown up elbow to elbow with the most powerful men in the Gambino and Genovese Crime families.
His uncanny knack for making money without even trying earned him the nickname ‘Magic Mickey’ Downey. It had seemed only natural that Mickey marry the daughter of the Boss of the Gambinos, securing himself a lucrative but loveless path to second in command. When the RICO charges came down for Downey and his father-in-law, he stayed true to his code of silence and never flipped on his boss in spite of the bitter estrangement from his wife. It was the damning testimony of his mistress, Mary Gates that sent shockwaves through the community. Not that it was enough for a conviction. The jury conveniently deadlocked and Michael ‘Mickey’ Downey slipped through the system yet again. Mary Gates and her young son disappeared shortly after.
Thomas Michael Gates was not quite ten the first time his father came looking for him. To this day, he could still remember the suffocating smell of leather shoes and his mother’s stale perfume in the coat closet where she had hastily shoved him. He could see her through the crack pacing back and forth with the phone to her ear.
“Jack, Jack – you’ve got to get over here! He’s here! He’s here! How did he find us? Oh God—” she choked out.
The doorbell rang, echoing through the sudden silence. His mother never moved from her spot as if she had been frozen by one of the freeze ray guns in his favorite cartoon. The front door opened and he could hear the soft click, click, click of a man’s shoes on the faded linoleum of their small dining room and kitchen.
“What’s the matter, Mary girl? Cat got your tongue?” a gravelly voice purred.
Tommy couldn’t quite make out his mother’s face but he could hear the fear in her voice as she replied.
“What are you doing here? Why have you come? Why now?” she half sobbed.
“Where’s the boy, Mary?”
“Gone. He – he’s not here. I-I-I’ve made sure he’s somewhere safe. Somewhere you’ll never find him!”
Tommy frowned, thinking as far as hiding spots went, the coat closet across the foyer from the kitchen didn’t seem to qualify as ‘someplace you’ll never find him’. Assuming the ‘him’ was… well, him. Something was familiar about this man, he couldn’t place what, only knew that whoever he was, he was scaring Tommy’s mom. And as the resident man of the house – that’s what his mama always called him, her ‘little man’ – Tommy would have to protect her.
He looked around the closet and grabbed one of her fancy shoes she prized so much and inched closer to the door, ready to spring into action. He cracked the closet door open a small amount more as quietly as he could. The man’s back was almost hiding Mama from view as they stood on opposite sides of the circular kitchen table.
“There’s no sense in making this unpleasant, Mary. I am not here to hurt you. I’ve had a lot of time to think things through and I understand why you did what you did. Them damn Feds got to you didn’t they? Twisted things around like they always do. Always sneaking in and busting up families—”
“Is that what we were, Michael?! A family? I was your whore, nothing more!” Mama said hoarsely, then stepped back and clasped her hand over her mouth as if she’d remembered Tommy was only a room away.
“You were never that to me, Mary, and you know it! You were my life, my everything! You and Tommy were my refuge from that woman and her incessant demands. I could never please her, but with you it was easy, right, so damn good until you—”
“Until I what, Michael? Had enough? You chose to marry that – that – woman! For what? Power? Money? I was a stupid foolish girl to think you would choose me and our son! Time and time again you went back to her!”
“I had no choice, you know that!”
“There’s always a choice, Michael. Always. Well, I made mine. I chose my son over your stupid filthy business!”
“Where is he?” the man hissed.
Silence stretched on. Tommy could hear his mother’s labored breathing, stifled sobs, and the rustle of clothing as the man sat down at the kitchen table. He could see them both now in profile, Mama still standing opposite, holding herself as if cold. With a sigh, the man took an intricately carved wood pipe out of his overcoat, stuffed it with tobacco and flicked open a shiny lighter to light it. He seemed to gaze everywhere but at Tommy’s mother as he puffed on the pipe.
Tommy pushed the door open just a bit more so as to get a better look at this man, the tiny beginnings of memories tracing tingles on the back of his neck. He remembered that smell. He remembered… rocking on an old oak rocking chair while the big man read him stories, always with the funny voices just like Tommy liked it. He remembered the way the man would run his fingers through Tommy’s hair and say ‘see ya later, sport’ and kiss him on the top of his head before he’d leave.
He came and he went, Mama’s special friend. But he was always kind and gentle. This man didn’t seem nice at all. The man in his memories used to lay on the floor and play cars with him like Mama would never do. He used to tell Tommy silly stories and make Mama laugh with his funny faces and the way he’d nuzzle her neck. This man seemed… cold… distant.
But then he set his pipe down and looked at Mama.
“Mary, I didn’t come here to fight, or to hurt you, I swear. I came to make peace. How long did you think you could keep my son from me? He has a right to know his father. Boys need their fathers,” the man said, his voice tired and sad like Mama’s had been a moment before.
“Boys need love. And to feel safe. Better to have no father than one who would never, could never, put his son’s needs first.”
The man made a frustrated gesture with his hand.
“What are you talking about? The danger is over. I’ve talked with my ex-wife—”
“Oh, ho? Ex-wife now? Finally had enough did you? What does Dear Old Dad say about that?”
“I – I hadn’t heard.”
“That surprises me. I would think your friends at the FBI would have kept you informed. I mean, don’t they take care of their little rats and snitches?” he sneered.
Mama jerked as though slapped. The man seemed to regret his words.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, almost brokenly. “Maybe I drove you to it. Maybe they tricked you. It doesn’t matter anymore, because he’s gone and Theresa’s not going to fight the divorce as long as I continue to support the kids. We have two. A girl and a boy. Don’t you think Tommy deserves to get to know his brother and sister?”
Mama seemed to not hear his words, instead, stared out the window at the sprinklers futilely battling the browning grass on an already hot Nebraska August morning. Minutes ticked away and finally she said, so low Tommy had to strain to hear her,
“What I wouldn’t have given six years ago to have heard these words from you. But now?”
The front door opened with a bang.
Uncle Jack’s booming voice rang out, “Downey! Get the hell out of this house! Now.”
The man’s entire demeanor seemed to change. Gone was the pleading, tired father, and in its place a whole other man emerged, mocking and snidely cheerful like the older boys on the playground who would pick on Tommy after school.
He stood up, sauntering towards Jack and lazily drawling out, “Well, well, well, lookie who we have here. Mr. F – B – I, himself. How much they paying you to sniff around my son’s mother? Oh, they aren’t paying you to do that anymore, are they? At least that’s what I’m told. You do it for free, then? What’s that pretty little wife of yours say about that, huh?”
“Stop it!” Mama hissed.
Uncle Jack strode forward into the kitchen and calmly stood next to Mama. She seemed to lean into him. The man curled his lip and lazily popped his pipe back in his mouth, then turned so his back was completely toward Tommy. Uncle Jack’s eyes slid to Tommy’s issuing what felt like a silent warning to keep quiet. Tommy made no attempt to hide in the closet anymore, instead moved to stand just outside the door frame. He was sure that Uncle Jack would fix it. Like he always fixed it.
“Downey, I’ve asked you to leave,” Uncle Jack said firmly. “I can have the local cops here in a second if you choose to make this difficult. Mary may no longer be in Witness Protection, against my recommendations, but I won’t hesitate to have your ass locked up for harassment in a hot second. You’ve no rights to the child. You know as well as I do that his birth certificate says ‘unknown’ for the father. You never publicly acknowledged him. Even if you forced a paternity suit, the courts tend to place children with their mothers. Oh, you can smirk all you like, but if you were to bribe your way into custody, I would not hesitate to hide them from you so deep you would never find them. I don’t care if I have to call in every marker I’ve ever had to do it, I will. You once claimed to love Mary and Tommy. Do the right thing for once in your God-forsaken life and let them be.”
The man turned his head a bit and seemed to stare at Mama like was memorizing her for a test. Then, pointedly ignoring Uncle Jack, the man walked forward until he was within touching distance of Mama.
“I’m not trying to take the boy from you, Mary. I just want to be his father. You could come back with me. Come back to New York—”
Mama’s voice was firm, like it got when Tommy was whining for an extra cookie. She seemed to draw strength from Uncle Jack’s words and looked the man in the eyes. She didn’t seem afraid anymore, just resigned and very, very sad.
“No, we won’t come back with you, Michael. That part of my life is over now. Tommy’s better off here, with all his friends. We’ve made a life here. Without you.”
“You can’t cut me out of his life, Mary. I’m his father. He’ll—”
Tommy moved forward, still in his faded, too-small Transformers PJ’s, his Mama’s pointy shoe clutched in his hand like a weapon. The man turned his head enough to finally notice his presence. Tommy met his gaze as a thousand emotions he couldn’t even begin to define flooded through him.
“I – I – I dddon’t wanna go. And… and, you leave Mama alone,” Tommy finally stammered out.
Tommy straightened his shoulders and tried his best to look tough like Uncle Jack. His hand trembled. The man seemed to appraise him like a new item at the store. His eyes warmed and he smiled a slow, satisfied smile at Tommy.
“That’s a good boy, protecting your Mama. I’m proud of you, son. Do you remember me? Remember how I used to tuck you in at night, sing you songs?”
Tommy nodded. Mama let out a soft “Oh!”, clutching her chest. Uncle Jack frowned.
“But you don’t want to come home? You and your mom?” the man asked as he came towards Tommy and knelt down in front of him.
He smelled like sweet smoke and for a second Tommy remembered again what it was like to be rocked by him. Held safe and loved. Tommy looked at Mama and Uncle Jack over the man’s shoulder and thought of the new friends he was making in his new home. Mama had promised they would stay this time. He wanted to stay this time. And the man had made Mama cry and be afraid. He was pretty sure dads weren’t supposed to do that. Besides, it was Tommy’s job to protect Mama. He was her ‘little man’.
Tommy stepped around him and over to his mother. He put his free hand in hers and squeezed it hard.
The man – his father! – slowly stood and turned to meet his gaze. He looked sad again.
“Well, then, young man, I’ll make you a promise. And remember this: a man’s only as good as his word, and you have mine,” his father declared in a voice that was gentle and yet businesslike at the same time.
He held out his hand as if to shake and waited until Tommy put down the shoe and placed his sweaty palm in his large, calloused hand before continuing.
“I won’t take you from your home, son,” he said firmly. “But we will meet again, you and I. And I will always be there for you if you need me. Maybe that means nothing to you now, but someday it just might.”
His father’s hand felt warm and strong, and swallowed Tommy’s own trembling palm. His green eyes seemed to be glittering as he stared at Mama and Tommy for what felt like a long time. Then he dropped Tommy’s hand, turned and left without another word.
For months afterward, Tommy wondered and worried if he would come back and take him away from his mom. But he never did. Tommy began to imagine it had all been a dream except then the presents and letters started to come on his birthday and holidays and his mother would mutter under her breath and look scared again. It made him mad and he felt like he owed it to her to not open them.
But late at night, he would imagine what was inside, and what his father was doing. If he was rocking his other kids to sleep, telling them stories, playing cars on the floor. He wondered what it was the man did that had made Mama so scared she needed to hide. To cry herself to sleep after she thought he couldn’t hear.
He was eighteen when his father showed up again, standing at the back of the room on Graduation Day with two men Tommy had instantly recognized as bodyguards. Gone was the mystery of who his father was. He knew by then just who, and what, Michael ‘Mickey’ Downey was. Google was a mighty thing. Tommy had studiously ignored his presence, and instead focused on his beaming mother’s face sitting next to Uncle Jack and Aunt Claire. They were his family.
Surprise wasn’t a strong enough word for what he had felt when he came home from the school reception to see his father sitting at the gleaming new dining table his mother had scraped and saved for. In front of Mickey lay a neatly bound stack of eight years’ worth of unopened letters, stamped ‘Return to Sender’. His dark, almost black hair was just slightly tinted with gray at the temples and his vibrant green eyes seemed to sparkle at the sight of Tommy and his mother.
Mickey stood up and extended his hand, as he had done so many years before.
“Congratulations, son,” he had said with a smile, as if eight years hadn’t passed since they’d last spoke.
And now here Tommy was again, another handful of years later, staring at his willfully obtuse father and trying to fight through the mess of impossibly conflicting emotions he always felt when face-to-face with the man who had given him life. The man who had loved his mother deeply, but drove her to a life of desperation and fear. The father who was never a real part of his life growing up, but who had never stopped, from the moment he had learned of Tommy’s whereabouts, trying to forge a relationship. The mobster whose very lifestyle was everything Tommy despised.
“Son?” James asked, interrupting Tommy’s memories.
James was still standing sideways between Tommy and the limo, looking politely confused. Tommy met his father’s eyes and blew out a frustrated breath. He had read once that a sign of intelligence was the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time and still be able to function.
Tommy figured he ought to be damn near genius levels by now.
–Copyright 2012, Genevieve Dewey.
Read more… Chapter Two, “James”
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