Morrison (Caldwell Brothers #2)
Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Spades—my world is one hand at a time. The read, the game, and the ability to walk away as the unexpected winner—that’s how I roll. Life is a game of chances, not a game of hearts.
When my older brother Hendrix moved out of the apartment that housed our family, I became the man of the house. “Housed our family”? No—we never truly lived there. I refused to believe that was living.
The old man owned the whole building, and his bar, as he called it, was below the apartment.
His bar. We knew better. Momma ran that place. If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have been able to hang on to the only thing in his miserable existence he could possibly ever have been proud of. Because he didn’t care about us, that was for damn sure.
“Think of me what you will,” he slurred as he wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth, stood up from off the floor, and pointed his yellow, tobacco-stained finger at my brothers—Hendrix and Jagger—Momma, and me. “Every other dive around here has been abandoned since the factories all took a shit. But not my place. I’m one hell of a businessman, and you’re all lucky to have a man like me.”
“You piece of shit! Momma is the only fucking reason you have a business,” Hendrix said before lunging at him.
Jagger and I both grabbed him, holding him back from beating the old man’s ass down once again. We had cause to worry, because when Hendrix had stepped in once before while the old man was beating on Momma, he had knocked him out cold. The old man was down for a while, too.
Momma cried, worried Hendrix had killed him. Worried Hendrix would get in trouble, get taken away, go to jail. Never once was she concerned about the old man being dead; she was concerned about my brother, her son. Over and over, Momma said, “This is my fault.” It was never her fault, though. It was always his, the fucking bastard.
With Hendrix gone, I had to learn how to keep the bastard from killing Momma without myself winding up in jail, so I did.
I took blow after blow from that motherfucker. I never cried or whimpered, and I didn’t fight back. I remember the day I lay on the floor, curled in a ball, covering my head while he told me in the slurred, drunken voice we had all become accustomed to that I was either immune to pain or had one hell of a poker face.
Over the span of several months, he took less and less satisfaction from hitting me and started in on Momma again. I’d stand in front of him, blocking his blows. When she’d try to get between us, I wouldn’t allow it. Gone were the days when she would hide us away in the tiny room of the apartment like she had done for so long when we were little. There was no more shielding us from the fucker; we would do what needed to be done to shield her.
I’d no longer lie on the floor. I’d stand motionless, appearing unaffected as he beat my face, my chest, my body. With each drunken strike, he’d grow angrier and angrier, whereas I’d grow mentally and physically more able to endure his attacks.
One day the old man came at me with a bat he kept in the bar. As he ran toward me, Jagger stuck his foot out from where he was sitting on the couch and tripped him. The old man fell flat on his face, and when he got up, he swung that bat at Jagger over and over while Jagger ducked and avoided every attempt. The fucking scrappy little shit never got hit once.
The last swing would have had Jagger—he was cornered. However, I grabbed the fucking bat, pulled it back against the old man’s throat, and held him there until the bastard passed out.
Momma came running up the stairs from the bar to find him lying face-first on the floor.
“This has to stop. You two boys should go stay with Hendrix at his place.”
“We won’t leave you with him. If we leave, so do you.”
“I can’t, or everything I’ve worked for will be gone.”
“Not us,” I told her as I wrapped an arm around her.
“I work for you three boys, breathe for you three, live for you three. I still see something good in him. When he’s sober, he—”
“I’m not gonna leave you or what you worked for,” I told her.
Momma eventually stopped crying, but it took forever. When he came to, all three of us were sitting on the couch. He stood up and glared at us through his red eyes, yet never said a single word.
One night, I woke up to them fighting and ran out of my bedroom in my damn shorts. He was chasing her up the stairs to the apartment. A big old trunk sat on the landing. I pushed it to the edge, ready to send it down on top of him. The old man froze, and I saw fear in his bloodshot eyes, fear I had never seen before. But it passed quickly.
“You fucking touch her, and this comes down on you, you feel me?” I roared.
“You don’t have the balls, you little shit.”