Chapter 23

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Nole grabbed the page instinctively and deciphered Caden’s handwriting. He noticed the date on the paper being one month ago.

News: Triads seen around local market – potential hideout. Quads rob same market 3 days later – coincidence? Enforcers: no new leads on market robbery. MM: no leads.

“MM?” Nole read aloud. His first thoughts went to Murphy Maddox, but it didn't make sense that Caden was curious about Murphy. At that point, he decided not to rule anything out.

“I was hoping you’d know about that,” Betty mentioned, working her way through the crumpled stack of papers. “There’s plenty more where that came from. I went through this bag last night; call it some midnight reading.”

“I’d always seen him scribbling in the daily paper, but I didn’t think it was anything like this. He’s really invested in the city’s crimes.” He reread the brief note, running his thumb over the set-in ink of his brother’s writing.

“He’s more than invested. Each of his little paragraphs follows the same structure: news, Enforcers, MM. The pattern is concrete,” Betty analyzed.

“How many of these are there?”

“I asked Zane to get the sheets with writing on them. Given that the Enforcers ransacked your place earlier in the day, these were all that was left.” She held up the bag to represent the remnants of Caden’s daily habit. “Seems like the Enforcers didn’t pay much attention to them. Good thing for you.”

“I don’t see how,” Nole sighed. “What is this supposed to tell me? He always kept up with the paper, more than both Suri and me combined.”

“These details are very brief and to the point. I would say that he seemed to have a certain motive for keeping track of this particular information, however I don’t know him well enough to judge.”

Nole kept his eyes on the passage, as if the answer would jump out at him if he stared at it long enough. What Betty said made sense, but Nole couldn’t decode the meaning of the message either. It pained him to admit it, but he didn’t know Caden as well as he thought he did. As far as Nole was concerned, he and Betty were on equal ground when it came to disfiguring the inner workings of Caden’s mind.

When he looked up from his staring contest with the page, he noticed Betty watching him.

“What?” Nole demanded, sounding more perturbed than he’d wanted to. “What do you want me to tell you?” He bit his lip, trying to withhold his feeling of uselessness. What kind of brother am I? I’m nearly a stranger in their lives, and now, when it matters the most, I can’t even understand Caden.

“Chastising yourself isn’t going to fix this,” Betty advised unsympathetically, reading his mind. He avoided her gaze, embarrassed that she could read him so easily. Instead, he focused on the bag resting on the table, the crumpled sheets overflowing out of the open top like a frozen fountain.

His attention was recaptured when Betty’s hand grabbed the plastic bag in a tight fist and cleared her throat. “I presume Valerie informed you that there was a job?” He clenched his eyes shut upon hearing the words. Preparing to deny the request immediately, he was cut off by her direct instructions. “Stay here and read through all of the notes. Figure out the purpose behind them and if they have anything to do with what he’s up to now.”

The weightless bag slid over to his side of the table with ease. Placing his hands around the plastic, Nole felt the edges of the construed papers inside. A part of him felt ashamed at hiding the folder from her. Here he was, keeping secret information for himself, and she was helping him. Guilt didn’t even begin to describe his feeling in that moment.

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