Chapter 37

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Get out of there. Get out before he gets himself killed for talking to you.

But Ted has already seen me. He's making his way toward me. And suddenly he's standing there, beaming down at me, something in his eyes reminding me of Belle. I feel bile rise in my throat.

"Jess," he says. "What are you doing here?"

"Uh ..." I stumble backward, trying to breathe and not see Belle's face. But everywhere I turn I can picture her; eyes closing, body falling, the light floating away from her corpse –

I'm not watching where I'm going until I bump into someone stepping through the doorway. The drink in his hand splashes across his white T-shirt. I start to apologize, but then I recognize the face.

Its Lizzie's brother, Danny.

"Look what you did you bitch!" he growls, his hand closing around my wrist.

"Get off me," is what I want to say. But this is the son of the man I was hired to kill. I can't make myself his enemy. So instead I put on a frightened face and try not to look in his eye.

"Hey!" calls Ted. He bravely steps between us and wrenches Danny's arm away from mine. "She told you to let go."

"Ted, please–"

"What did you say to me?" Danny retorts, turning his crazy, drugged eyes on Ted instead of me. Two of his friends flank him, ready for a fight.

This is not happening. First I make friends with Lizzie and score a bonding session, now I'm being rescued by a Jesus–freak from the sleazy brother of the girl I'm trying to befriend.

To make matters even worse, Ted does not look like he can take this guy on in a fight.

"Ted just leave it," I push. "Let's go outside and talk, okay?"

"No," says Ted. "No, he should not be treating you like that."

Lizzie's brother smiles widely. "You gonna fight me, Teddy Bear? Bring it on!"

A sort of excited hush has fallen upon the living area. The music has ceased. It seems everyone is eagerly awaiting the brawl.

"I'm not going to fight you," says Ted. "I don't believe in violence."

"Wow, are you a homo." Danny's friends cackle at the joke.

"Again," says Ted, "that's not something I believe in."

The crowd jeers and boos. I raise my eyebrows, praying it's over.

And then Lizzie appears.

"What the fuck are you doing, Danny?" she snaps at him. "You come in here with your drugs and your deals and create fights with my guests? I've told you once and I'll tell you again: act respectable or get the hell out of here!"

A bunch of people make ooing sounds. Someone even jokes that Danny is about to get his ass kicked by his sister. The music starts once people sense the fight isn't going to happen. And just like that, Lizzie grabs her brother's arm and pulls him outside.

"That was intense, wasn't it?" Ted grins at me with a stupid look of excitement in his eyes. I don't know what he's expecting from me, but whatever it is, I've had enough.

"It was good to see you again Ted," I mumble, "but I'm going home."

"Oh ... can I walk you? Just in case?"

I moan internally. I can't kick this guy off. "Fine."

We move out onto the street. As I pass a group standing by the steps, I hear raised voices coming from around the corner of the house. I recognize Lizzie's instantly.

"Uh–" I stop Ted in the middle of the walkway. "Can you wait here a sec? I was supposed to let my friend know when I was leaving. She's around the back."

"Sure." He shoves his hands in his pockets. I'm amazed at how relaxed he seems.

I creep toward the side gate, glancing back at Ted as he watches the streets. Then I crouch down behind a garbage bin to listen.

"–Dad's not here, is he? I'm the boss now, it's my party, and if you bring any more of your loser friends here to do drugs I'll rat you out to the cops."

"Please," Danny snorts.

"Fine. I'll tell Dad you're keeping a stash of marijuana in your bottom sock drawer."

There is a tense pause.

"What do you want me to do?"

My mouth falls open. Garcia must be one scary son-of-a-bitch if he can frighten his son more than the cops. Though, I've dealt with some pretty crazy gang leaders. It's better to be in prison than in trouble with those guys.

"I would say piss off and don't come back until you're sober and wearing clean clothes, but ... I need you to do me a favor."

"It better not be cleaning up after tonight because you can hire people for that shit."

"I need you to occupy dad next weekend."

"What? Why?"

"Just ... I need to get away from here. Hazel and a couple of her friends are renting a beach house on the coast and I want to go. But Dad wants to have a family night on Saturday and after the party I ... I don't think he'll let me go. Not unless you make up something."

"What am I supposed to say? When Dad has his mind on family stuff there's no changing it, Liz. We mean the world to him."

I really wish I didn't hear that. God, I'm getting too personal with this mission. I should talk to Morrison about it.

"That's why he'll listen to you. Tell him you need some father–son time and advice on how to not be a druggie."

"I dunno ..."

"Do it, or I'll spill."

Danny pauses.

"Alright. But you owe me."

"Yeah," she snorts. "Whatever."

I hear nothing more and back away, trying to put together a plan in my mind. I can either try and get Lizzie to invite me to the beach house when we fence on Tuesday to glean more information, or I can use her absence to spy on Garcia.

Let's just get through the next agonizing walk with Ted, okay Jess?

Yay.This will be fun. 

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