Chapter 12

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I can't remember the last time someone who wasn't Alice or a preacher from the homeless centre took me out for a meal. I am so used to either glancing at the food behind the counter and walking away or ordering it and legging the heck out of there before they ask me for a cheque. Sitting in a downtown Italian cafe with Nick eating a focaccia and drinking a cappuccino makes me feel like I'm in a bad play.

We parked the police car a few streets back – for my sake – and Nick was good enough to hide it behind a few dumpsters. I still feel guilty for snapping at him when all he wanted was to take me out. I make it up to him soon enough by telling him about how great last night was.

"Really, it's been that long since you've been to a party?"

"Yeah I know," I admit sheepishly, although I'm not ashamed. "I had a really ... bad experience at the last one I went to. I've found better use of my Friday and Saturday nights since then." I wonder how he'd treat me if he knew I'd been raped at a party. Perhaps he'd be sympathetic, maybe even apologetic that he'd invited me to relive the atmosphere last night. I haven't told anyone, not even Alice. I've been too ashamed at my own stupidity to spill the secret.

Nick surveys me through narrowed eyes. "I guess that's sensible. Most girls your age can talk about nothing but boys, parties and alcohol. I'm surprised you're not like them."

"Why, because of all the other illegal stuff I'm into?"

Nick raises his eyebrows before taking a sip of his Long Black.

I bite my lip. What am I doing, telling a cop that? "Uh, I mean, not that I get into that much–"

"Hey, Jess." He raises a hand to quiet me. "So long as I'm not wearing my uniform, I'm not a police officer okay? Relax. I won't bag you for anything. We're just two people having coffee."

I believe him. We don't speak a word about my unnatural teenage ways and instead get into the subject of other things completely irrelevant, like our favourite movies and where we see ourselves in ten years time. I laugh when he says he wants to be married with four kids in a house outside the city. I don't think he sees the humour though.

"What? What's so funny?"

I immediately close my mouth. "I just didn't peg you for a country bumpkin who thinks about having a specific amount of kids."

"Why, because I'm so stoic and hung up on the past?" he replies sharply.

I pause, wondering if he let that slip accidentally. "What makes you think that?"

He's about to explain and I sense the true story of his past brimming beneath the surface. But then he brushes it off, just like he did at the party last night, and I am left hanging again.

"Another time," he says as he waves at the waitress for the cheque. She nods and walks back inside. "Besides, I need an excuse for you to see me again."

"You don't need an excuse," I shrug. "I'd love to see you again."

As we leave the café, Nick takes hold of my hand and I am so unaccustomed to the delicate gesture that it takes my breath away. We walk through the streets to the car in silence. Nothing is said, and yet I feel like I've been talking for hours. I am a different person around Nick. Usually I'm the over confident, locked-up type of teenage criminal who pretends she doesn't have a care in the world when she's really hiding the darkest secrets behind her silence. I can tell Nick is the same, and it makes me curious. For a cop and a criminal, we are more alike than I ever imagined.

So lost in my mental discovery, I don't register what's right in from of me until Nick mutters, "holy shit," and my eyes go wide.

Nick's car used to be a spotless model of the law. Now, however, we stand before an utterly trashed clump of metal with four huge dumpsters stacked on top of the vehicle like Jenga. Someone has covered the inside with something disgustingly sticky.

I am frozen in shock as Nick has a panic attack and runs at his car, ignoring the bronze goo and diving through the window for the radio. Obviously the door won't open; the dumpsters have flattened it.

Idiots, my mind murmurs furiously. Who'd go so far as to trash a police car and launch four huge dumpsters on top of it?

The answer to my question comes as I walk around to the passenger side and see a note taped on the door handle.

My eyes dart to Nick but he's too busy beating the crap out of the radio and swearing at it to pay any attention to me. I slip the note into my pocket and walk back around to the driver's side.

Nick emerges from the crushed interior covered in sticky shit with a furious look on his face.

"Radio's not working," he seethes. I've not yet seen him so furious. Even the snooty, silent Nick I met after having been tackled to the ground and cuffed is tamer than this. "Stay here, I'm going to find a pay phone and call the station."

I don't think to argue with him; he looks fit to murder as he turns away to make the call. I wait until I hear him talking to rip the note from my pocket. It is scribbled and utterly illiterate, but I get the message.

The Mafia will hear about this. I'm not sure dating a cop is positive credenshal.

St James, midnite.

You want to be there.

C.



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