Chapter 9: Away from Home

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Gravel crackled underneath the tires as they pulled up to the old auto shop from the back road. Not even Kazimir's favorite song on the radio brightened his mood. Shadows danced along the brick walls as they parked. He dragged his feet toward the door, carrying his precious portable art easel across the straggly grass.

Paint chipped from the panels of the old building and it looked horrendous. Kazimir had half a mind to get out and repaint the place himself. He used to fix up old houses for people back home for money all the time. He had an old dealer who helped hook him up with those fixer upper jobs, but he stopped when a few people complained about prescription pills and money going missing while Kazimir was around.

Everly came up behind him with his suitcase, and the can of paintbrushes in her arms clacked as she searched through her purse. The key glinted when she finally pulled it out, much like the sparkly purse itself, and she opened the narrow metal door with a click. A blast of warmth caressed Kazimir as they headed single file into the cramped entry before it opened up into the shop office.

They walked right into an auto body workshop, where two old school classics were parked. Kazimir admired the snazzy blue Pontiac as Everly led him across the room toward the makeshift lounging area, where Charlie was sprawled on the couch, watching some old western movie. Alfie had made himself comfortable on a bar stool up at the mini bar they'd constructed in the kitchen, sipping on some booze.

Everything about their hideout fascinated the artist. He wondered where they accumulated so many bizarre things for the place, like the skeeball machine, the doubled-seated race car driver game, and mini bar.

"Yo, what's with all the paint?" Charlie asked.

"I'm staying here until my shoulder's better," Kazimir told him. "Emmett wants to make sure it doesn't get infected, and he's worried Samantha might try coming after me again."

"We got held up by the police when we went to his apartment," Everly said. "Seems like someone's trying to frame Kaz for his neighbor's murder. Detective Lindel believed me when I told him how Samantha attacked Kaz, so I'm hoping they might turn their suspicions toward her. If they can find her."

"Those Black Vipers always have some sneaky ass plans. We need to catch that crazy bitch." Charlie popped his neck, grunting softly.

"You don't know anyone who had it out for this Hank guy, do you?" Everly asked Kaz. "Like, did he ever argue real bad with his wife? Other neighbors? Co-workers?"

Kazimir shook his head. "Hank was chill with everyone. He had no enemies that I know of."

Everly fiddled with the sparkly purse she carried. "That's strange. Everyone has enemies. Someone hated your neighbor enough to kill him."

"Yeah, but who?" Kazimir asked.

"I'm not sure. Your guess is as good as mine," Everly replied. "You knew Hank best."

"I'm not sure either." Kazimir sighed. "Anyway, where can I put my stuff?"

"I guess you can use Emmett's bedroom," she replied. "The one he brought you to before. Or, you can share a room with Fatlard."

"I'll take Emmett's. If he's okay with that."

"I'm sure he won't mind," Charlie said. "He brings guys to his bed all the time."

"Seriously?" Kazimir's cheeks bloomed with color as lurid images came to his mind. He just hoped Emmett changed the bedclothes after those hookups.

"Yeah. Guess he won't be doing it now that you'll be staying here." Charlie rose from the couch after his western movie cut to commercial. "Y'all need help carrying that shit?"

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