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Legacy Restored

By Robin Patchen

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Angelica Rossi waited until her customers slipped out of the restaurant before she snatched their receipt from the table top and glanced at it. A ten-percent tip on a thirty-dollar ticket. They’d occupied one of her six tables for an hour and a half and left her three dollars.

Fine, then. She wasn’t going to complain. This was gainful employment. Well, employment, anyway.

She closed her eyes, prayed for patience, for peace, for faith. Maybe this job wasn’t that gainful, but it was legitimate. It was a step in the right direction.

She carried the dirty glasses to the kitchen and set them into the sink to be washed.

This wasn’t such a bad gig, and she needed to hang onto it. The job was necessary until she completed her six months at the sober living house. Then, her probation would be completed, and she’d be free to live life on her terms again. She’d be free to go home to her parents and rebuild her relationship with them. Her mother had promised years before that she’d always save Angel a seat at church, but Angel hadn’t attended since high school. Someday, when all this was over, she’d gather the courage to slide into the pew beside Mom and Dad. Someday, she’d convince them she was worthy of the family name.

The sober living house was much nicer than she’d expected. Her roommate, Brittney, was fun to hang out with, and the other women were nice enough. Heck, it had to beat prison.

Angel returned to the table, propped the menus back in the rack, slid the salt and pepper shakers to their proper places, and sprayed cleaner on the top. After she wiped it off, she cleaned the first bench seat and moved to the second.

Something black stuck out between the far end of the bench and the wall. She reached for it.

A wallet. A thick wallet probably filled with credit cards and IDs and cash.

Temptation, familiar and powerful, tingled in her fingertips. She could slide it into her pocket, go through it later…


She wasn’t that person anymore. She closed her eyes and thanked God for her freedom. Not from prison or rehab or sober living, but from the sin that had led her to this place. She didn’t want this wallet. Never again would she steal. Never.

Angel slipped the wallet into the pocket of her apron and finished cleaning the booth. When she was finished, she beelined through the restaurant toward the front to turn in the wallet.

She found the manager behind the hostess station. Angel was still ten feet away when the woman turned to her. She was fifty-something, heavy set, and wore a look on her face that held such hatred, Angel slowed her steps. Contempt she was accustomed to, but this was worse. This manager hadn’t hired her and didn’t like her. She didn’t like any of the people the owner had hired from the sober living house. She didn’t trust Angel, and Angel couldn’t blame her.

She’d never been trustworthy. That she was now seemed irrelevant to everyone, herself included.

Angel plastered on her best smile. “Hey, when I was cleaning a booth—”

“Empty your pockets,” Barb said.

The man who’d left the three-dollar tip stood on the far side of the hostess stand. “If you’ll let me go look—”

“I’ll handle this, sir.” Barb focused on Angel again. “Now.”

Angel forced her gaze away from Barb and smiled at the customer. “I found a wallet in your booth. I assume that’s what you’re looking for.” She pulled it out and handed it over.

He blew out a breath. “Thank you. It must have fallen out of my pocket.”

“My pleasure.”

“You’d better check it.” Barb’s voice was sharp, loud. “Make sure nothing’s missing.”

A customer at a nearby table turned to stare.

Angel’s cheeks warmed, but she kept her smile in place. She hadn’t done anything wrong. This time, she hadn’t done anything wrong.

The man looked from Barb to Angel. “Uh, okay.” He opened it, picked at the many credit cards, flipped through the cash. “Everything’s here.” He focused on Angel. “Thanks again.”

All that cash, and he’d left her three dollars. On the other hand, he’d given her an opportunity to test her ability to withstand temptation. For that, she owed him. “Have a great day.”

The man nodded to Barb and pushed out the door of the restaurant.

Barb rounded on her. “You’re fired.”

“What?” Angel stepped back. “Why?”

“You’re a crook.”

“I didn’t steal—”

“Only because you got caught before you could go through with it.”

“I came straight to you. I was going to turn it in.”

Barb’s face twisted into an evil smirk. “Right. That’s why it was in your pocket.”

Angel said, “I stuck it there while I cleaned the booth.”

“I heard all about you.” Her voice carried, and more customers turned to look. “You’re not only an addict, you’re a thief and a con-woman.”

Who’d told her that? The sober living house wouldn’t have disclosed that information.

“Why you’re not in prison,” Barb continued, “I have no idea, but you’re not going to steal from our customers.”

Words Angel didn’t use anymore rose to her lips as heat flooded her skin. She wanted to defend herself, to fight for her job, to argue. But Barb was right. Angel had been a thief all her life. She didn’t deserve this woman’s trust.

And she sure as heck wasn’t going to beg to keep this crappy job.

She slipped the apron over her head, shoved it into Barb’s hands, and marched out the door. The air was hot, too hot for mid-September in Manchester. Angel wasn’t dressed for Indian summer in her blue jeans, her sensible black tennis shoes, and the long-sleeved black T-shirt with the stupid restaurant’s stupid logo emblazoned on the back. The heat suffocating her wasn’t a result of the temperature.

Shame burned hotter than any New Hampshire day.

She’d been fired. Fired for stealing. That she hadn’t actually stolen anything was irrelevant.

Normal people—not addicts, not felons, not crooks—drove along Elm Street and walked past her on the sidewalk. Doctors, lawyers, business people. Store clerks, secretaries, salesmen.

These were the kinds of people she’d never wanted to be like when she was a kid. She’d craved adventure. She’d craved risk.

Now, she’d give anything, anything to be one of them.


She turned to see the other waitress, Karen, hurrying down the sidewalk toward her.

The last thing she wanted was to talk. With a sigh, she stopped and waited.

“What happened?”

“She fired me.”

“She said you stole a wallet.” Karen tilted her head. “Did you?”

“No, but…” Angel shrugged. “I found it, shoved it in my apron pocket.”

“You need to talk to the owner. He’ll take you back.”

Angel looked toward the restaurant, then touched Karen’s arm. “Thank you for checking on me. You’ve been a good friend.”

Karen stepped back, regarded her through narrowed eyes. “You’re not going to, are you?”

“Her word against mine, and my word isn’t worth anything.” Angel plastered on a smile. “It’s fine.”

It would be, eventually. Angel would get over this. “I’ll find something else.” She said the words with more confidence than she felt. She had to work if she wanted to stay in the sober living house. She had to stay in the sober living house if she wanted to stay out of prison.

Karen pursed her lips and shook her head. “Last week you went to bat for one of the cooks when he showed up late. You argued with Barb until she let him off the hook.”

“His daughter was sick. You don’t fire people—”

“Her reason for firing you is even flimsier.”

Except Karen didn’t know her past. She didn’t know the truth about who Angel really was.

“You know what your problem is?” Karen said. “You think everyone’s worth fighting for except yourself.”

Angel’s bark of a laugh held no humor. “I guess I know me too well.”

The restaurant door opened. Barb stepped out, looked around. When she spotted them, she glared.

Karen focused on Angel. “You’re wrong.” Karen pulled her into a quick hug, whispered in her ear. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. You are worth fighting for.” She let Angel go, squeezed her hand, and hurried back to her job.

Angel watched her friend walk away. Karen was a nice lady, but about Angel being worth fighting for, she was very wrong.
* * *
Angel wandered up and down Elm Street seeking help-wanted signs. She needed a job, and she needed one fast. She applied at a couple of restaurants, but as the hour grew later and the dinner crowds grew thicker, the managers had less time to deal with wannabe employees.

It was after six, and with the sun on its descent, the air had grown chilly. She shivered and decided she’d resume the job search in the morning. Which meant she had no place to go but back to the house, where the house manager would surely ask her why she was home from work early.

She could lie, of course. Tell the woman they’d let her go early because it was slow or that she’d felt sick. It would be easy to come up with a viable story. Except Angel didn’t lie, not since she’d become a Christian. Because the Bible said Satan was the father of lies, and she wasn’t willing to be his minion anymore.

She’d be honest and face the music.

She pulled her keys from one front pocket, patted the other, which held her cell, and turned down the dark street beside the restaurant toward the parking lot. She could smell the burgers grilling in the kitchen, a scent she wouldn’t be sorry not to carry home with her every day. There was the silver lining.

Fewer cars lined the sidewalk now, though there were a couple between Elm Street and the parking lot. She scanned them, looking for anything out of place. Wednesday night, and this wasn’t a dangerous area of town, but anything could happen. She was nearing her car when a man stepped out of a dark sedan.

She froze and stared through the deepening twilight. As the other door opened, she realized who the first man was. Not a killer or mugger or rapist. Her stomach plummeted just the same.

Detective Routhier took a few steps toward her. “How’s it going?”

Another man stood near the passenger side but said nothing.

She continued toward her car, and Routhier fell in step beside her.

“Just get off work?” he asked.

“Something like that.” Another twenty feet and she could crawl into her beat-up gold Impala and leave him and this whole day behind. She concentrated on the soft thud of their footsteps, on the street noises coming from a block south.

“Problem is,” Routhier said, “I called the house where you’re living, and they said you worked until eleven.”

She glanced at him. “What do you want?”

“Just to talk.”

She reached her car and tried to insert her key into the lock. The light was dim, and her hands were shaking. She hadn’t done anything wrong, but guilt plagued her anyway. And being stalked by the cop who’d arrested her and thrown her in jail wasn’t exactly a soothing experience.

He leaned against her car door, and she backed away and crossed her arms.

His partner watched from beside the unmarked car on the street.

Angel sighed. She had no reason for fear. The guilty feelings were remnants of her old self, not reflections of who she was today. “You need me for something?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Routhier’s dark eyes took her in from head to toe and back. “Sobriety looks good on you.”

He knew she wasn’t an addict. He’d argued fiercely that she deserved prison. Because drugs—belonging to a friend of her former boyfriend—had been found in the car she’d been driving when she was arrested, her lawyer had pushed for rehab. The state had agreed, assuming she’d stolen to feed an addiction, and the judge had listened.

Routhier knew all of that. There was no good response to his sarcasm.

He glanced at the back door of the restaurant. “You quit your job—?”

“What do you want?”

“Or get fired?” He must’ve seen something in her eyes, because his wide face split into a cruel grin. “What’d you do?”

“Unless you’re here to arrest me, I’m free to go. And since I haven’t done anything wrong—”

“Did you steal something? When I suggested to your manager that she keep an eye on you, I never thought she’d catch you that fast.”

“You!” She stepped away. “You told her about my past? Can you really hate me that much?”

“All I did was tell her you were a thief, Angel. You’re the one who proved me right.”

“I didn’t…” Rage rolled over her in hot waves. “Are you here to arrest me?”

“You lost your job, which means I can send you back to prison right now if I want to. You know that, right? If you’re unemployed, you’ve violated the terms of your probation. And if I have a little chat with your manager, we can add stealing to your violations.” He grinned. “Good bye, freedom, hello, prison.”

He was right. Maybe Angel’s lawyer could buy her a little time. Maybe, if she hurried and got another job, if she could show she was doing her best…

“But that’s not why I’m here,” Detective Routhier said. “I have another matter I’d like to discuss with you.”

Another matter, as if they were business associates instead of enemies. Her gaze flicked to the other detective, who’d walked closer and now stood beside his partner. “What?”

“We want to talk about Anton Turner.”

The name was so unexpected, she thought at first she’d heard wrong. Anton Turner was the founder and leader—president, grand poo-bah, whatever—of Cambridge Homes, the organization that ran the sober living house. She’d only met the man a handful of times in the three months since she’d moved in. She’d seen him at the house a few times and at a fundraiser for all his sober living houses across the state.

“What do you know about him?” Routhier asked.

Not much. Anton came across as a nice enough guy, but the whispers told a different story. She’d heard all sorts of weird accusations about him—that he’d supplied drugs to some of the occupants, that he’d made inappropriate advances to some of the women.

They were only rumors. And besides, Angel had no desire to help the cop who’d arrested her. Yes, she’d deserved it. Been guilty of the theft that got her arrested and plenty more. That didn’t change the resentment that dogged her now. “I know nothing about him.”

“He knows about you, though,” Detective Routhier said. “Do you know why you were able to get into his house?”

She’d known little about addiction recovery before her sentence. From addicts in rehab, she heard the Cambridge houses were cleaner, nicer than a lot of others, and also harder to get into. She’d not thought much about it when she’d applied and been approved. She’d counted it a blessing and hadn’t given it another thought. “I figured I got lucky,” she said.

Routhier said, “We heard he planted drugs on another resident to make room for you.”

The other cop nodded. Apparently the man didn’t talk.

“Why would he do that?” Angel asked. “I’d never met the guy.”

“You’ve never had a conversation with him?” Routhier asked. “He hasn’t tried to befriend you?”

Anton had sat beside her at the fundraiser and made conversation. He’d been nice enough, and she hadn’t thought anything about it, figuring he was just getting to know the new girl.

He’d been to the house a few times, too, and chatted with her, but he did that with everybody.

Except… Come to think of it, she couldn’t remember him talking to any of the other residents. Just the house manager and her.

Routhier was watching her, nodding slowly. “Thought so.”

“It was nothing.” Her gaze flicked to the other cop. “Seriously.”

Routhier nodded as if he were considering her words. That would be a first. “Eventually, he’s going to seek you out. We think he’s planning a heist, and he’s going to ask you to be a part of it.”

A heist? Who used that word? And anyway… “He hasn’t said anything to me. And even if he did, I wouldn’t do it. I’m done with all that.”

“Sure you are.” Routhier’s glance flicked to the restaurant she’d just been fired from. “I’m trying to help you out here. I’m trying to keep you out of trouble.”

“You don’t give a flying… fig about me.”

He laughed and looked at his partner. “She’s cleaned up her mouth, anyway.” He focused on her again. “Fig?”

“I don’t use bad language anymore. And I don’t steal. So you don’t have to worry about me getting involved with Anton and his heist.”

“But if you did get involved”—Routhier lifted his comically wide shoulders, then dropped them dramatically—“you could really help us out. And then we could help you out.”

Ah. Now it made sense. They wanted information. They wanted her to… what? Be a confidential informant? No way. She’d probably end up getting arrested again. Even if she didn’t, Anton held her future in his hands. If he told the state she wasn’t following the house rules, he could get her sent to prison. “Forget it.”

“We could talk to the judge, maybe get you out—”

“Not interested. I’m going to earn my freedom the right way.”

“Too late for that, seeing as how you avoided prison.”

Another wave of guilt. She braced herself, let it roll over her. “The judge gave me probation with rehab and sober living. I’m doing what the state told me to do. There’s no shame in that.” She nodded to her car. “If you’ll get out of my way.”

Routhier pulled a business card from his shirt pocket and held it out.

She shoved it in her back pocket.

Finally, he stepped back.

She stuck her key into the lock, opened the door, and slid behind the wheel. She backed out of the parking space and turned toward the street.

A glance in the rearview mirror told her the cops were watching her drive away.

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