Chapter 6

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The top right corners of the newspaper fluttered faintly from the cool air blowing around the room. The purr of the air conditioner created a white noise for the three of them, as Nole read the words over and over. “Young Man Wanted: Kills Uncle of Chief Enforcer”. It took him a minute to realize what the title meant.

“What?” He grabbed the paper, reading its entirety. He brought it within a few inches of his face, as if the issue was its lack of proximity. “Showdown at home of Murphy Maddox, uncle of Captain Enforcer, Jett Maddox, results in homicide. Witnesses at the scene claim the young man pictured is the killer.” Uncle of Captain Enforcer? Murphy never told me. He stopped reading. “They think I killed him?”

Skimming the rest of the article, he read that there were witnesses who’d been interviewed separately and gave the same, accurate story. They must mean the Pents. Nole thought it odd that the Enforcers would trust gang members as eyewitnesses instead of suspecting them, but read on.

He came across a smaller photo of an expressionless man in an Enforcer’s uniform. Flicks of dark hair peeked beneath the hat he wore as the brim’s shadow darkened his already black eyes. The caption read, “Captain Enforcer Jett Maddox claims he will not rest until the murderer is brought to justice.” The article went on to quote the man saying he was “devastated by the tragedy” and “determined to find who killed his uncle.”

When he reached the bottom of the page, he discovered something else. It reported that there was a set of fingerprints found on a bloodied paper towel inside the shack. Nole remembered the night he brought the stranger to Murphy’s place and how he’d cleaned his hands from the blood. Although it wasn’t his blood, the prints would be enough to charge him as an accomplice. The sketch also looked convincingly accurate, so it would only be a matter of time until he was caught.

“They’re pretty confident it’s you,” the old woman remarked, as he slowly lowered the paper to the table. His mind panicked at the situation. “Well?”

“I didn’t kill him!”

“Normally I wouldn’t believe the Enforcers, much less the media, but there are witnesses.” Betty analyzed Nole, waiting for a reaction, but he didn’t give her one. It says all of this happened yesterday, so I blacked out for an entire day. He met the old woman’s glinting eyes. They suspect me, but they could’ve turned me in. So why is she baiting me?

“You know I didn’t do it,” he stated calmly. “Tell me what you really want.” Olivia whipped her head at Betty, who crossed her arms and half-smiled in amusement.

“Quite the deducing skills you’ve got there,” she said, smiling fully now. “You’re right. Zane told us you were awfully surprised to find that doctor dead.” Nole grimaced at the mention of Zane’s name. Although he had saved Suri, he was Nole’s only lead on who Murphy’s murderer was.

“That guy, Zane, he had blood on his hands when I found him in Murphy’s basement.” What Nole was implying made the smile on Betty’s face disappear, and a scowl soon replaced it. Her long slender nose crinkled as if she had suddenly huffed in a rotten smell. Olivia, too, recognized the woman’s new expression and jumped in.

“He was checking the doctor’s pulse,” she chimed in. “You should be thanking him, for-“

“Thanking him?” Nole interrupted. “That lunatic almost killed me in the cellar!”

“Don’t provoke people that are stronger than you,” contended a voice from behind Nole. He turned abruptly, giving him a slight case of vertigo, and saw Zane standing stoically by the entrance. His hands were jammed in his pockets and his enigmatic eyes were downcast, as if absorbing the situation. How long has he been there?

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