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Duke: Chapter 28


This Arik and Quincy situation is fucking annoying, and I drew the short stick in terms of who’d be staying behind to play babysitter to these assholes. I fed them peanut butter sandwiches and water for lunch. I suppose we can’t let these conniving, spying little bitches die from dehydration or starvation. But we’ve seriously gotta figure out what to do with them, because the piss break that I was in charge of earlier was a real pain in my ass. And speaking of ass, I’m not cleaning them up if they shit their pants.

The doorbell rings as I hit the bottom step on my way down the stairs. I frown. Most everyone else is out of the house. No one has even asked about either one of our prisoners. It’s proof that Quincy and Arik haven’t ingratiated themselves with this brotherhood. Could it be the cops again? They said they might be back, but I can’t imagine what would bring them to our doorstep less than a day later.

Duke, Bear, and Lennon had gone to class earlier, trying to maintain an air of normalcy despite the flyer incident yesterday and the fact that we have the culprits locked up in the attic. Quite a few brothers should be home soon, as many are done with classes by noon—but there’s no reason why they would be ringing the doorbell. The door is almost always unlocked during the day, even if the alarm is set.

I punch in the alarm system code, then throw the door wide open. I don’t know what I’m expecting. The UPS guy with another shipment of Twizzlers for Brendan? Maria looking to make up with Warren, since they’re on the outs again? Who knows. But I sure as fuck wasn’t expecting the man standing before me.

Murdock Mikaelson. The root of all my fucking nightmares. My father.

I’ve also heard people call him Madman Murdock. Or Murdock the Murderer. Or Murdering Murdock. My stomach goes sour as I stare at all six-foot-three of big, thick muscles. I know in prison inmates are given the opportunity to maintain their health, and when I was younger, I’d have visions of my father doing push-ups in his cell, preparing for the day he’d be released so … he could come after me? I dunno. I used to have weird thoughts like that. I guess I’ve gotten too complacent, thinking he’d never be set free. Because this reality is fucking terrifying.

He gives me a grim smile. “Hello, Mason. It’s good to see you after all these years.”

I shudder. I most definitely do not feel the same way. Hunter is built much the same as our father, has always been a stockier version of me. Only, studying my father now … Hunter’s far less intimidating. It’s a bad sign because on a good day I can hardly deal with Hunter with the shit he says. That jerk has told me over and over that our father is a good man who took the fall for my actions, and I should be grateful to him. Lies. It was all lies.

I don’t know whether having Lennon around has forced me to directly confront things, but fuck. I refuse to be held accountable for something that my logical, waking mind no longer believes I was at fault for. Despite all that, my brain doesn’t deal well with having this man in front of me, it twists and goes dark. Flashes of him with my mother on the balcony bombard my head. The shouting. The shoving. The crying. It slams into me full force, making me sweat. I still don’t know what they were arguing about that day. Eight-year-old me didn’t get it. I only knew my mother was in trouble. My father had been so fucking angry, I could feel it deep in my soul that if I didn’t do something, he was going to hurt her. He’d backed her up to the railing of the balcony. Pushed my mother as I came running toward them. Fucking disgusting, slimy bastard. He pinned what he did on a child. I didn’t fucking do it. Mom … My heart clenches hard as memories stampede through my head. He killed her. I hate him.

Without a clue how long I’ve been stuck in my head, I finally refocus on my father. Drawing myself up, I blink a few times, meeting his steely, sharp gaze. His eyes travel over me, and he gives me a look of such disdain, I wonder why he’s even here. “Funny, I can’t say the same, Dad,” I spit out, my voice full of snark. “What’s it been, thirteen years since you killed my mother?”

My father’s smile is lethal, but he doesn’t appear surprised by my question. “You know, considering I did fucking time for something you did, I would have thought you’d have a little more goddamn respect for me.” I’m not expecting it when he throws out a hand and pushes me backward, allowing himself entrance.

I catch myself as I stumble, a deep scowl forming on my face. My fists clench. “You know that’s not the truth. And more importantly, I know that’s not the truth, no matter what lies you try to spew. I don’t care if you and Hunter want to tell everyone otherwise. I was eight. Just because I was there when it happened means nothing.”

“Tell yourself what you have to, if it makes you feel better.” He taps his finger to his temple. “I’m not the one who has psychotic breaks with reality.”

Cold nerves wash over me. Drawing in a steadying breath, I shake my head. I should have known he’d show up. I’ve been worried about his release, but … I never expected him to simply show up on my fucking doorstep. Fucking walk back into my life, easy as he pleases. “Of course I have issues. I witnessed you kill my mother. Any child would be scarred by that. I’m glad I’m nothing like you, nor do I want anything to do with you. And you aren’t welcome here, old man.”

“Doesn’t matter what you think. Founding member, remember? I have keys to the place. I was here when it was built.” He lowers his voice, gritting out, “And I know all its goddamn secrets, so maybe you should show me a little respect. Because if I went down for something you did, I can and will allow the same to happen to you.”

“The fuck are you talking about?” I scowl hard, my eyes narrowing.

His eyes have an unnatural, sick gleam to them as he pins them on me and huffs out a laugh. “Considering your fuckin’ daddy was the lawyer who got me put away in the first place, maybe you should ask him. Pretty fucking huge conflict of interest he had there.”

My head goes hazy at his words, my blood pounding so loudly in my head, I can’t hear anything else. My daddy. What the fuck. My stomach churns as I look up at him from under a hooded gaze. Shock slams through me. I’m not his son … Holy shit, I’m not his son.

I stare at this man, who I’ve hardly had contact with over the last thirteen years, and can see he has had nothing but hatred and disgust for me. Once he took my mother from me, all he’d been was the deep—sometimes scary—voice on the other end of a phone. He’d spent the majority of what little time we spoke berating me and my life choices. Here was this person who was supposed to protect and love me—and my mother—yet he fucking killed her and now he’s saying what? That he’s not even my father? I can’t wrap my head around the venom he’s spewing. It can’t be true.

“How’d you get out, anyway?” I ask, unsure if I want to know the answer. He said something about a conflict of interest. Maybe I can better understand what’s been going on around here, if he spells it out for me.

“Conflict of interest. Did you hear me the first fuckin’ time I said it? My goddamn lawyer didn’t put you on the stand to protect your sorry little ass. So, now that your paternity has come to light, it made it very easy for them to release me.” He pauses to laugh, “And think about it this way, if I shouldn’t have been in prison … maybe I’ll make sure they look at the other person on the balcony that day.”

I suck in a breath. He’s bonkers. “You’re saying this lawyer knew I was his?” My brain ticks through all the people I’d made a note of in my phone. I remember a few of the details from a news article I’d read about the murder case that had rocked our town. Supposedly, the defense lawyer had been a friend of my father’s that was doing him a favor in taking on the case. He must know I’m his son now. But did he know, then? Botch the case on purpose, like my father seems to think he did?

“Well, he was fucking your mama eight years prior … so I’m guessing he at least had a clue.”

Isaac Hauser. My brow furrows hard. I think that was the name, but I’d need to look at my notes to be sure. But then, Murdock Mikaelson gives me the nastiest smile, and I know. He’s not lying to me. For once.

I don’t know how long we stare at each other, but it takes the door opening behind him to snap me out of the trance. Duke, Lennon, and Bear all walk in, talking amongst themselves, totally oblivious as to what they’re walking in on. All conversation comes to an abrupt halt, and they freeze just inside the entryway, their gazes ping-ponging between me and the asshole Duke and Bear know as my father. Murdock steps to the side, encouraging them to enter, with a smile. And because my friends aren’t stupid and have known Murdock Mikaelson almost as long as I have, the guys have the immediate presence of mind to shuffle Lennon behind them.

My pain-filled eyes meet theirs. “This murderous douchebag claims he isn’t my father after all. Isn’t that a fucking hilarious turn of events?” My jaw works to the side, fury climbing within me so fast it makes me want to hurl myself at him and gouge his amused eyes out with my thumbs.

Shaking his head, Murdock tries to hold back a laugh, but doesn’t quite succeed. “If you don’t believe me, you might check with your brother—sorry, half brother—about the journal he finally fucking found. I’ve had him looking for the damn thing for years. It belonged to your whore of a mother. The proof is in there. She wrote all about her affair. Your mother was nothing but a slut.”

He’s still talking, but I see red, my vision twisting with it. And I don’t hear a thing but the buzzing in my ears. My mother. This man killed her. Bile rises in my throat. My jaw clenches. He is not my blood. He’s nothing to me. With a cry of rage, I lunge toward him, but before I can get there, Bear and Duke have caught me and are doing their damnedest to hold me back. Through the haze of my anger, I hear Lennon’s startled gasp, Duke’s voice in my ear trying to soothe me as his arms band around my body, and Bear’s huffed bark at Murdock that maybe he should fuck back off to prison where he belongs.

My former father eyes me, his gaze hateful. That’s the same look I recall being on his face after they said he’d be going away. I was a scared child then. But I’m not frightened of him anymore. He clicks his tongue before narrowing his eyes on me. “That rage, flowing beneath your skin, you’ve always had it in you. It’s what made you push Lily right over that balcony. I wonder if you get your psychotic tendencies from your father. Sure as hell wasn’t your weak dead mother.” His eyes search behind me, and I know without a doubt, they’ve landed on Lennon. “Sweetheart, you know you’ve gotten yourself involved with a fucking crazy person, right?”

A painful breath heaves from me, and I shout at the top of my lungs, “I didn’t fucking do it, and you know it, you homicidal psycho!”

Lennon steps closer to me where I still struggle between Bear and Duke. She puts her hand on my back, then ducks under my arm between me and Bear. “You know nothing about Mason. Leave him the fuck alone.”

Murdock shakes his head with a chuckle as he begins to back toward the door. “Can’t say it was nice knowing you, kid.” He walks out the door and down the steps without a second glance, a bounce in his step. That piece of shit doesn’t have a care in the world, even though he’s rocked mine.

One final burst of chaotic rage fills me, and I let it spill out. “Fuck you, you motherfucker!”

He turns around, backing away. “Oh, I did fuck your mother. You just weren’t a product of that. And if you aren’t my son, then you don’t deserve the Mikaelson name or anything that comes with it. I’ll be sure to take care of that. No worries.”

I pitch forward, breaking free of the hold my friends have on me, a raw cry bursting from my lungs as Murdock Mikaelson climbs into his Corvette and peels down the driveway. Lennon races to stand in front of me, planting her hands on my chest. “Look at me, Mase. He’s not worth it. Don’t do this to yourself.” She turns and slams the door, then points a finger toward the back of the house. “Come on. Out back. Pierre and Kai are coming up the driveway. They don’t need to hear this.”

I hiss in displeasure, allowing my feet to carry me on autopilot all the way outside to the patio. I stop once we’re out there, violent tremors racking my body. What he’d said had been too much information … yet not nearly enough. There are way too many pieces to the puzzle that remain missing.

It’s a good thing Lennon gets ahold of one of my arms because I don’t know where the hell my feet have been carrying me. She leads me over to one of the cushioned outdoor couches and pushes me down onto the middle of it, then sits beside me, curling her legs up and wrapping her arms around me. A shuddery exhale slips from between her lips as she rests her head on my shoulder. Duke lowers himself to the cushion on my other side and angles himself toward me while Bear pulls another chair closer and takes a seat across from us. The level of turmoil and confusion floating about in the air surrounding us is thick. Potent. Suffocating.

Duke eyes me, then reaches out to grip the back of my neck, squeezing lightly. “What the fuck? Did you know he was out?”

His hand on me makes me feel minutely better—like he gets it. This is a huge fucking deal. I shake my head. “I had no clue until I opened up the door, expecting to see FedEx or UPS, and there he fucking was, standing on our front steps bold as hell.” I breathe slowly, in and out. In and out. My gaze flicks to my fists, which have been clenched hard ever since he showed up. I make a conscious effort to relax them, but they still shake. “And then he drops that bomb on me out of nowhere.”

“I don’t even doubt him. I bet it’s all true,” Bear grits out. “You’ve always been the odd man out in that family. More like your mother than anyone else. This explains all that.” He scrubs a hand through his hair. “Are you okay?”

That’s Bear, ever the caretaker. I lean forward, trying hard to maintain my composure, not wanting to give him another thing to worry about. “That’s a good question. I really don’t know if I’m okay. Maybe if we talk through some of this, though. Fuck. I don’t know where to start.”

Lennon burrows closer to me. “Why don’t you tell us anything you feel is important that Murdock said before we got home?”

I exhale hard. Nod. “Okay. Before you walked in, he said something about the lawyer fucking up the trial. But I know I read that his defense attorney was a friend of his. I have maybe a vague memory of him. Isaac Hauser.” My eyes slam shut. “He called this guy my daddy. Said he hadn’t put me on the stand to protect my little ass and that’s why he ended up being sent to prison. But then also something about there having been a conflict of interest that they’ve discovered, and that’s why he’s out now. I guess they found out that I’m actually his lawyer friend’s kid. A journal of my mother’s. I don’t know where it would have come from.”

Bear lets out a surprised-sounding exhale. “The fuck.”

I grab at my hair, pulling at it as I rock myself, squeezing my eyes shut. “All those years he treated me like crap. Like I was less than … My entire life has changed in the blink of an eye. Everything I knew about myself. Obliterated.”

Just when I think no one will be able to reach me through the chaotic thoughts in my head, Lennon does. “Mase. That’s not true. You know exactly who you are. You’re an incredible artist, like your mom was. You are still Lily’s son. You’re someone who will drop everything and do anything for your friends. You are strong. You’ve endured. And you’re the one who gets me on a level no one else does. Remember? My broken pieces go together perfectly with your jagged parts. That’s what you told me, right? What he did may have damaged you in a way, but this new development? I can’t see this as a bad thing. That asshole is not your fucking father. It all makes sense now.”

Duke’s hand moves over my back in a soothing manner. “She’s right, it does make a fuck ton of sense. Especially if he had an idea that you weren’t his. Maybe he suspected you weren’t his son but rather his dead wife’s love child—a child he’d had to take care of because she was gone but he had no proof.” He lets out a sigh. “What are the odds Hunter will let you see this supposed journal he unearthed?”

“Who knows? That fucker hates me. But I can text him about it.” My jaw twitches violently at the idea of asking that dickhead for anything. Especially now.

Lennon’s brow furrows. “It sounds like that journal was what set this in motion. Like maybe Murdock finally had evidence that made it clear Lily had this affair with his friend—and you were the result of that.”

“They must have threatened him to help get Murdock out of prison,” Duke mutters.

Lennon’s jaw drops open. “Wait. What are the chances the journal discovery and proof that Mason was Isaac’s is what made the OGs back off Elliot? Wouldn’t that mean she was somehow caught in this entire scenario?”

“That’s an interesting thought. But how would we figure it out without directly asking?” Duke frowns.

“Leave that to me. I’m actually already on it … I just hadn’t realized it.” Lennon gives me a confused look, rubbing her temple.

I give her the side eye. “What?”

“Your librarian. Turns out she’s a genealogy freak. I asked her if she would look at some of the family trees of the people involved in Murdock’s case. I’ll have her focus on Isaac and Elliot and see if there’s some sort of connection.” She sucks in a breath. “I don’t know. I could be barking up the wrong tree entirely.”

Bear’s been studiously staring at his hands, and finally he looks up. “No. I actually think it’s worth a shot to have outside eyes on this. Maybe the librarian can help us figure out what the link is … if there is one.”

I scratch my head, taking a deep breath, because my mind isn’t with the current vein of conversation—I’m stuck on Isaac being my father. “When I was reading news articles about the case, one said I wasn’t put on the stand for some reason, which matches up with what Murdock—I refuse to call him my father—said. He was counting on me being questioned. It unnerves me to think what would have happened if this Isaac guy, my father”—I stop to swallow—“hadn’t kept me from being called as a witness. He protected me in the only way he knew how.” Is it too much to hope that someone out there was looking out for me after my mother was gone?


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