Chapter 7

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The clock’s ticking reverberated against the wood-finished cabinets and porcelain tiles, filling the quiet kitchen with a rhythmic beat. The time read five minutes past seven in the morning. All four of them sat around the sturdy center table of the kitchen area awaiting their boss. Despite the uncomfortable silence, none of the three next to him decided to speak to one another.

After agreeing to work for Betty yesterday, he had gained a lot in terms of necessity. It was only during the tour with Olivia that he learned the old woman owned the entire apartment complex he was now living in. How there had been an unscathed building left in Nova City, Nole had no idea, but he didn’t ask questions.

Like a savvy realtor making her rounds, Olivia made sure to show Nole and Suri around the entire building. According to her report, twenty-three tenants inhabited the property, not including him and his sister. Betty occupied her own room, as did Zane, while Olivia and Valerie shared a double. Similarly, Betty gave Nole and Suri their own double suite, also provided them with full access to food and utilities.

During his time with her, Nole made sure to get as much information out of Olivia as possible. Through his subtle means of inquiry, he was able to find out more about his new neighbors. He learned that they were all close to the same age. Olivia was the youngest at fourteen, while Zane was the oldest at seventeen, and Valerie was in the middle at fifteen. Olivia’s nervous aura prevented her from going into specifics, but she did share that they had all encountered Betty at a low point in their lives. Nole decided he wouldn’t dig into their pasts because he didn’t want them digging into his.

Besides, he knew it was unnecessary to inquire about their families, as Betty seemed to be the closest thing they had to a relative. Even Burt clung to her whenever he wasn’t latched to Suri.

Nonetheless, it was somewhat comforting for Nole to hear that he wasn’t the only one who had experienced difficulty early on in life. The fact that they had stuck with Betty for so long indicated that they had no other options to try.

Given the information, it seemed as though Betty’s offer to Nole wasn’t as outlandish as he’d originally thought, but even so, he couldn’t ignore the fact that she was connected to the murderous boy he’d reluctantly saved a few days ago. Not only had he racked his brain trying to come up with answers to their mysterious connection, but darker thoughts had also crept into his mind.

If I hadn’t saved that guy, would Murphy be alive right now? Is it my fault?

Although he had had the makes of a perfect night’s sleep, he didn’t get much rest at all. As a result, he found himself nodding off at the table; but quickly snapped his head back upright to avoid having to be lectured again about his critical need for sleep by Valerie.

In addition, he tormented himself by thinking about Caden, and Murphy, and his mother, and the memorial that never happened.

“It’s okay,” Suri had said before climbing into her new bed. “We can just have it when Caden comes back.” Although he appreciated Suri’s innocence, it was going to take more than optimism to find his brother in Nova City, not to mention clear his name and find Murphy’s real killer. When asked about and how she was feeling after the abduction, Suri put on a brave face and acted overly content to the point where he knew she was lying.

There was also a clear indication that something was wrong when she conveyed a lack of disappointment when telling her that she had to steer clear of the city; not even complaining when he mentioned that they wouldn’t be visiting the fountain any time soon. By that point, it was clear to Nole that she was afraid. My brother’s missing and my sister’s scarred.

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