Two men stood behind the car as it backed out of its garage. Judging from the way the driver was backing out, he was oblivious to the fact of their presence.
One of the men smiled. He was older than his companion by a quarter century though he was only in his late forties. He had the build of his companion too; tall and lean as an acrobat, but stronger than two men his size put together.
“Do you want this one?” the other said seeing his smile. Although he was a teen, the carelessness in his comment was beyond irritating.
“This isn’t a game,” said the older through clenched jaws. He remembered himself when he was a novice. He had been just as irrational and it had cost him his entire family.
The kid smiled and popped another skittle in his mouth.
Please choke, thought the first man, Choke and die and go to hell where you belong.
And miraculously the kid gagged.
He turned and saw the incredulous look on the old man’s face and smirked, “I know how you think you old bastard,” and just to see his expression, popped another skittle into his mouth.
“Let’s get this done,” grumbled the old man checking his left forearm. Strapped under his trench coat sleeve was a spring-loaded blade contraption that could be triggered with a flick of his wrist. Even though it looked pretty advance, his ancestors had been using it for centuries. He didn’t dare release the hidden blade lest the kid notice.
The kid shifted forward popping another skittle in his mouth. He was dressed as an ordinary high school kid going to school. Only the old man knew the bag on his back had nothing to do with academics.
The kid walked up to the driver who had stopped in the middle of his driveway. It seemed that one of his tires was flat.
Think! thought the old man towards the driver as if he could somehow develop telepathy, You can feel the danger. React, do something!
But of course people never saw anything until it was too late.
And that was why he was here.
The kid had been sent to kill the driver for some reason and the old man had been sent to kill the kid.
“Hey there,” said the kid in an innocent “kid” voice, “You have a flat.”
“I know,” said the driver baffled and not taking the bait.
The old man sighed. The kid was good at killing but nothing more. Give him a gun and blade and he could have torn through Afghanistan’s Taliban in minutes. He had no skill as an actor, much less an assassin.
“Need help?” the kid offered.
The driver shrugged “Sure, why not?”
He walked to the car’s trunk to get out the spare tire. He opened the fingerprint lock and felt a weird tingle on the back of his neck.
“You're dead,” said the kid applying a little pressure with the knife he wielded against the man’s whitening skin.
“What are you doing? Who are you? What is this?”
“Retribution,” said an icy voice as the knife slide through the skin between two vertebrae. Death was immediate, bloodless, and painless.
The old man smiled sarcastically, “Nice joke.”
“It’s not a joke,” said the kid releasing the limp body, “He cheated us and deserved to die.”
“So do you,” said the old man in a flat tone.
“Huh?” said the kid sheathing his blade and staring at his victim. He was too distracted with his kill to understand what the bastard was saying.
Of course people never saw anything until it was too late.
The old man released his hidden blade with a flick of his wrist.
The kid heard the metallic click and realization sparked in his eyes.
“You fuc…” He started to curse.
He never got to finish his sentence.
Chapter One: My Life Before
The alarm clock went off at 7 am. I opened my eyes staring at the cursed thing then whacked the snooze button so hard it got stuck inside.
“Shit,” I said as I got up. My back was still sore from yesterday’s free-running practice. The sport of running around and doing dangerous gymnastic tricks off of walls, cars, buildings and sometimes even people had a certain thrill to it that I couldn’t resist. But it was all fun until you fell and hurt something, in my case, a failed backflip off the roof of a convenience store.
“Jordan!” I heard my mom yell from down stairs, “Get up or you’ll be late for school!”
I sighed. Today was supposed to be the beginning of spring break but our asshole of a principle decided to postpone it another week. Of course a lot of kids were expressing their discontent by simply not coming but for me that was not an option.
I got up, found my towel, and shuffled out of my room to the bathroom down the hall. Once inside I closed the door and looked at myself in the mirror.
“God,” I winced checking out the bruise on my back. It had become a deep pink line on my left side from my shoulder blade to my kidney. This was going to take a loooong time to heal.
I thought for a minute, my parents must have some sort of painkiller in the med-cabinet. I ruffled through it, found what I was looking for, and took double the dose.
“Not working,” I mumbled to myself too groggy to remember painkillers didn’t work instantaneously.
I figured I could try and copy the effect of the IcyHot patch by taking a cold shower then turning the heat to maximum. Instead of giving the desired effect it numbed my back altogether. That’d have to do.
I dried off and went to my room to get dressed and ready. The weather outside was cool so I thought I’d don a pair of faded jeans and a light cotton hoodie. I had a liking for hoodies. It ran in the family.
I packed my laptop, books, and free-running gear. I know, I’m a junkie.
I smiled at the thought as I left the room and went downstairs to the kitchen. The whole gang was there; mom, dad, Keisha (my little sister, sadly) and Nick (my lucky toddler brother). Dad was reading a newspaper; it was part of his job which I still didn’t understand. He was a cross between an entrepreneur, a middleman, a salesman, a lawyer, and a million other things put together. All I really understood was that he made money, lost money, and somehow paid the bills.
Mom was the opposite. She knew how to keep money and spend it sensibly where my dad didn’t think of that until he was broke. Where everyone thinks having so much in common is the recipe for a perfect relationship my parents were a contradiction to that theory. My parents were like two jigsaw puzzle pieces. My father’s downfalls were my mother’s strengths and vice versus. I still don’t know how they survived before getting married.
My sister Keisha was a year younger than me. She was the typical younger sister, a pain in the ass every minute of her existence. She was a legit gymnast and a pro dancer where I was a free-runner and a pro break dancer. She was a little Ms. goodie two shoes and always seemed to cast me into the shadow. It was fine with me though … until we got our allowances.
“Hey dad,” I smiled extra fake, “Good to see you made it for breakfast.” Apparently he had forgotten to pick me up yesterday from school. Not that I minded since I got to free-run but it wasn’t every day I could get on my dad.
He smiled apologetically “Sorry kid, I got caught up at work.” Suddenly his face darkened as if something about his work was bothering him.
Great, I thought, the best time to have a financial crisis was before a vacation.
I sighed and went to make my homemade mocha. Little Nick squealed and reached out towards me. I laughed. The youngster had taste. Too bad no one else did.
After a quick breakfast I went to the garage to grab my bike. As usual Keisha was waiting for me there. I sighed for the hundredth time that morning and rode my bike down the driveway with Keisha yapping behind me. I maintained a no-hands as I plugged in my earphones and turned the volume on my iPod to the max. Ahhh, peace and quiet.
After the first half mile of ignoring her she decided to lean veer in and yank the earphones out of my ears. “Stop ignoring me!” she yelled.
I looked at her and gave her the F-off look.
“Don’t give me that,” she warned.
“What do you want?” I asked as I took a right through an alley at full speed. That would keep her out of earshot for a bit.
She caught up eventually and stuck her tongue out at me. “You’ll break your neck one day and we’ll see who’ll be laughing then.”
I reached down to grab my earphones again and she tried to ram me off the curb.
“Hey!” I shouted.
“Listen to me!” she yelled back, “Did you notice dad at breakfast?”
I shrugged, “He looked a bit stressed, so what?”
Her brow furrowed “Mom was a bit upset too.”
I waited. “And…”
“I think there’s something going on,” she said.
“That’s what marriage counseling’s for,” I replied. I had seen a bit of concern on my mom’s face earlier this morning.
“Seriously,” she said, “We have to find out what’s happening.”
I laughed “Forget it.” Every time we both got caught doing something she was never the accomplice and I always took the blame.
“Please,” she pleaded, “They really were upset about something.”
“How would you know?” I gave her the slip again through another alley. This time she decided to take the chance and follow me through it.
“Jordan!” she screamed.
I groaned and slowed down a bit, “If I listen to your crap will you get off of my back?”
She glared at me, “Mom and dad’s issues are not crap!”
We rode into the school parking lot which didn’t look nearly as crowded as most days. It looked like a lot of people were getting ahead on their break.
I rode over to the bike stands to chain my bike. Peering through the crowd, my attention was caught on a petite light-skin girl sitting on one of the benches outside of the cafeteria. She had a slim vase-shaped body, nice shapely portions, and a face that could out shine the sun.
I watched as she pulled a strand of deep chocolate hair out of her face and tuck it behind her ear. The innocent gesture seemed somehow seductive in the way she did it.
“Jordan, don’t kid yourself,” I heard Keisha say from behind me.
“C’mon, Jordan. You and Ciara? That would make a headline on CNN.”
I contemplated flicking her off then had a better idea.
“I just remembered!” I smiled, “You got dumped a last Tuesday!”
Her smirk shrunk to a frown and she raised her hand to hit me. I laughed and ducked out of her reach then slunk into a group of kids walking towards the cafeteria.
“Jordan!” I heard her call for me.
I ignored her and blended in with the light crowd until we came close to Ciara. She was sitting alone with a frighteningly large math book in her lap working through problems I’d probably do in college. I had detached myself from the crowd and stood silently watching her from a couple yards away. Her brow bunched up with her efforts. Too cute.
I slowly shuffled towards her trying to make my approach seem a coincidence. She heard my footsteps and looked up at me. The smile on her face stopped my heart.
“Hello Jordan,” she said in a manner that mimicked my mom at work.
“Hey,” I said with a lazy grin. What would a guy with swag say?
“Are you ready for the quiz in chemistry?” She closed her book and moved to the side for me to sit next to her.
My smile shrunk and she giggled.
“You didn’t study, did you?” she wagged a finger.
God, she sounded like my mother.
I looked down at my shoes. “I forgot about it.”
“That’s what you said the last time and your grade reflected it.”
Ah, I forgot to say that she had been assigned as my study partner. The teacher had made a point out of his assignment; the smarter your partner, the more screwed your grade was and, and Ciara was the smartest in our class.
“Sorry I didn’t make it to the study session.” I said searching for an excuse. I had deliberately turned off my phone that day so as not to get her reminder-call.
She smiled at me ruefully, “It’s alright. Just tell me if you need any help before the test.” Was that pity in her voice?
And with that she buried her nose in her book again.
That was normally how all our conversations would go. She’d remind me about something I had no idea I was taking, I’d apologize for not coming over to study, she’d offer her help, and in the end I’d flunk. The only real talk I had had with her was the one time I had actually studied with her and got a B minus. We had gone out to get some ice-cream as a little celebration. I hadn’t notice how mocking it had been until Keisha told mom and dad. The bi- … Ugh!
Seeing as she was in no mood to talk, I got up and headed inside the cafeteria. I walked over to get a carton of orange juice before heading towards my buddies’ table.
“’Sup Jordan,” said Kyle, my friend since… I couldn’t really remember. He lived a block down the street from me. We had gone to the same schools, daycares, and even planned to drop out of college together. Maybe co-manage a club or something. Haha! Yeah. He was the typical white kid; tall, lanky, suppish, Green Day, and all. Our parents never could figure out, or like, our friendship.
“Hey bro,” I replied as I pound his fist.
Jamal silently raised his fist. He was the type of kid that you’d think had a criminal record since he was three. He was adept in the arts of theft, robbery, burglary, shoplifting, pickpocketing, hotwiring, you name it. If it has to do with relieving people of their material burdens this was the man for the job. The fact that he saw no better in the light than in the dark did little to impair him.
I knocked my fist against his with my other hand on my wallet.
“Where’s Lee?” I asked the two. The fourth of our group was the real kick. I bet the only guy better than Lee in technology was George Hotz. His most prized possession was the custom phone he had assembled himself during the summer. That is if you can call it a phone. Where most cellular phone companies manufacture their phones to comply with international regulations this particular phone, I believed, should be ruled unconstitutional. It could do literally anything to anyone, anytime, anywhere, anyway. An example would be some freakish things he was able to do at an all-nighter that had resulted in the expulsion of three girls and the loss of a teacher’s license. No one had done anything wrong. Except for maybe Lee. Maybe…
“He said he was staying at his grandparent’s house for two weeks,” said Kyle, “The leech. He only goes there because his dad pays him to. They live in the freakin’ woods with no internet or cable. Lee couldn’t survive that.”
I laughed. “True.”
I took a sip of my orange juice and looked around the cafeteria. It was the same as it had always been. The all-white style, circular table arrangement, the smell of cheap food poisoning, the sound of ultra-profane rap music mixed with migraine inducing hardcore rock.
Yeah. Same old, same old.
The bell rang for homeroom and we all split. I left the cafeteria and went to get my stuff from my locker. As I walked down the hall my thoughts trailed off to Ciara. What would it be like if we were more than just tutor-and-dumbass? Was there a girl behind those brains? What was that girl like?
To say the truth, I didn’t really have a good relationship history. Most of my relationships either ended with me getting dumped or cheated on. That’s why I had decided to just leave it alone. Don’t play with the knife and you can’t get cut. The only relationship that had worked with me was with this one girl I had met in the eighth grade. We had been the perfect couple. It was nothing complicating just spending time, a few kisses, sleeping over sometimes. But fate had to end it. The night we were going to do the deed her parents had an argument and she left with her mother. The last thing I had heard come from her lips was her approval. My last image of her was of her erotic swaying hips as she walked through her front door.
“Why did it have to end?” I said to her photo in my locker. It was my only memoirs I had left of her.
I hid the photo and got my books. There was no point in remembering the girl. Odds were I would never meet her again and even if I did she would have probably moved on with her life.
Homeroom was the first class of the day. Ten minutes of annoying announcements and teacher-gossip. Ms. Rochelle, my homeroom teacher, was the type who was too hyped up about school and education. She was always handing out flyers for fundraisers and school clubs, giving us tips on college, and making us feel like the super-generation this country needs. My idea of education in this country was a lot simpler; passing quizzes, deciphering homework, and copying as much extra-credit assignments as possible. My parents could live with a C+ as long as I did my chores.
When I got to class I could see the school news production had just started.
“Good morning, I’m Jerry Brown with the EMH newscast today…” blah blah blah. I never understood why he had to introduce himself every time since it was always Jerry Brown who presented the news. It was just tedious. I half listened to the headlines. There was the usual weekend crime, a mugging at a convenience store a block away from the school. Mid-semester tests were right after spring break so no fun there. The last announcement was the one that caught my attention.
“…and last but not least; last night’s girls’ basketball match between the East Marina Sharks and the West Marina Lions ended with a winning score, for the first time in 3 years, of 96 to 87. Congratulations to all the young ladies on our team!”
Well that was something. I had seen them play once and I seriously doubted their coach was sober during practice.
I turned to the voice and did a double-take. To my right was a shapely brunette that I had never seen before.
“H-hi,” I stuttered, “You’re new here?”
She just smiled and shook her head.
“You wanted something?” I asked making an effort to keep from staring at her Ds.
She laughed lightly, “I just wanted to make sure it was you.”
I raised a brow, “What for?”
At that very freakin’ second the freakin’ bell had to freakin’ ring for freakin’ first freakin’ period.
She stood whipping her hair over her shoulder. I noticed a strangely familiar obsidian pendant hanging by a fine silver chain around her neck. It looked triangular with a curved base and spikes on the edges.
Where had I seen that before…?
She just gave me another approving smile, “This’ll be fun.”
Then she left.
Of course my eyes wandered to the expected area and w-w-wow! The way her waist, ass, thighs, and calves moved with every step, it was like she was dancing. The way she was shaped also told me something else. She was into sports and from the way those thighs pumped that butt, extreme sports.
Half way through the door way she stopped and glanced back at me. I hadn’t realized I was gawking until she gave me a devilish grin.
Then she was gone.
“Don’t feel like going to class, Jordan?” called Ms. Rochelle from behind her desk, “I’m not sure your grades could stand another blow.”
Go to Hell, I thought to myself as I got my stuff and hurried to class.
Lunch saved me from a five minute pop-quiz I didn’t need. Next period would be the chemistry test and I was seriously contemplating suicide to avoid it. Ah, what the heck, maybe in failing this test I’d gain Ciara’s sympathy. And a good chew out.
I went over to my locker to get my wallet. Yeah, yeah, I know, too paranoid. When you get a friend like Jamal you wouldn’t feel safe if you rolled your wallet and stuffed it up your ass. I bet the dude could steal a tramp stamp off a girl’s back if you challenged him.
On the way to the cafeteria I met up with Kyle and from the way he smelled it was apparent he had probably been at the gym.
“Yo,” he called panting, “There was this hot-ass chick asking about you earlier. She said she was looking for you.”
“What’d she look like?”
He smiled, “Brunette, D, Kim K booty...” He made a “ten out of ten” gesture.
“She met me this morning,” I told him, “made me late for class.”
He laughed, “Totally worth it bro.” Suddenly confusion swept over his face, “You said this morning? She was watching us play b-ball me just a minute ago when she asked.”
I raised a brow, “Ok, strange.”
“I knew she was too perfect,” he said shaking his head, “a crazy, beautiful, stalker.”
“Is she there right now?”
He shrugged, “She was there when I left.”
I nodded, “Aight, I’ll go see what this broad wants.”
He put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a serious look. “Jordan, if you get lucky with this girl…” – pause - “you better get it on tape.”
I punched him in the shoulder, “like that’s gonna happen.”
I headed to the gym to find it all but empty.
OK, things were getting creepy now. The hot new girl who somehow knows me is going around asking people about me. Apparently she knew my friends and class schedule too.
I walked to the center of the gym and picked up one of the basketballs sitting around. I had never been too good at basketball. A shot here and there I might get; 24 and horse I sucked at. My dad would always say I had the potential if I had just tried. Meh…
I walked up to the three-pointer line and prepared for the shot; legs bent, back straight, hands in the right position. I sent the ball in an almost perfect arch. It was beautiful.
You know how whenever your visual senses go into slow motion it’s always a sign something is wrong?
I already had my right fist up in victory when another ball came flying out of nowhere, hit the backboard, bounced my ball out of the way, and then dropped through the hoop. I whirled around to see crazy hottie watching me with a triumphant smirk.
“Would have been a nice shot,” she said.
I suddenly became wary. “Who are you?”
She shook her head. “If I told you who I was a lot of people would not be very happy with me.”
“Who are you talking about?”
She made her way to the bleachers and took a seat.
I hesitated before walking towards her. My head was running all the info I had about her like the credits of a movie. A quick analysis of her recent throw told me even more about her. She had an eagle’s accuracy, was stronger than the average high school hottie, and was here on behalf of someone else. Who this someone else was I had no clue but apparently him, her, or they did not want to be identified.
At least not yet.
She whipped her hair out of the way and a faint honeysuckle scent hit me.
“You ask too many questions,” she pouted, “I don’t like that.”
That made me mad. “Well then stop following me,” I snapped.
She sighed smiling ruefully. “If only you knew what you’re in.”
I walked closer towards her until there were only three feet between us. “What are you talking about? I’ve never met you in my life. What are you saying?”
She stood and closed the distance between us with one step. Suddenly her mouth was in my ear and her Ds (oh those Ds) were lightly pressed against my chest.
“You should take an early break, Jordan. It’d be a lot safer if you weren’t pulled into this.” She paused and I could almost hear the smirk in her voice, “Take care.”
Then she walked away.
I stood there for a whole minute not knowing what to think. If only I knew what I was in? It’s safer to take an early break? What the fuck?
After a while I just gave up on understanding what was going on and just walked out of the gym. A scene from Eagle Eye played in my head. I have an agent stalking me. Next they’ll send an unmanned droid after my ass and I’ll be labeled an enemy of the state.
Suddenly the bell rang for chemistry. I grabbed a cold, grease soaked pizza from the cafeteria before going to class. The whole time I felt as if someone was watching my every move. The chill on my neck just wouldn’t go away.
Well, the chemistry test was surprisingly simple. That paired with heaven’s grace called Yahoo Answers had me scribbling calculations furiously on my answer sheet. I almost skipped to the front desk to turn in my sheet. When the teacher looked up to see me he sighed and gave me a pitiful smile. Fuck you, man.
The last two classes were uneventful. Well, they could have been eventful but I wasn’t exactly awake for them. A text from Keisha woke me up.
mom picking me up. take my bike home.
I squinted against the afternoon sun as I walked outside to the bike racks. I unchained my bike and hooked the chain around Keisha’s unchained wheel. That way the bike will be twice as hard to steal and if Keisha came back to get it she won’t be able to unchain it.
I smiled at the thought of Keisha’s baffled face.
I rode home through back alleys listening to Kid Cudi Day ‘n’ Nite. As I rode up our street I noticed my dad’s car was in the driveway which was unusual. He was having trouble at work yesterday and he didn’t even go today. Did he get fired or something?
Perfect, just perfect.
I rode up the drive way and saw him up on a ladder, working on some wiring in the garage. When he saw me he made a weird expression. He looked relieved.
“Jordan,” he breathed jumping down, “Where is Keisha? Did she leave with your mother?”
“Yeah, she texted it to me,” I said a bit confused “What are you doing?”
His face went blank then he turned to look at the wiring he was working on. “Oh, this? Just fixing the security system.”
I nodded, “You need help?”
He gave me the blank face again. His eyes seemed unfocused as if something was on his mind.
“You ok Dad?” I asked
“What?” he said blinking twice. “No, I’m fine!” he said climbing back up the ladder to wrestle with the wiring some more. “Just tired from all this work.”
“Ok,” I shrugged. I wouldn’t want him all up in my problems, fair enough if he didn’t want me up in his.
“Could you get me some water kid?” he grunted whipping out a wire-stripper.
I walked inside and headed for the kitchen. The first thing I noticed was that the house was spiffy clean. Another thing was that there were strange drillings all over the house with electronic tendrils poking out. What the hell had my father been up to?
I fetched a bottle of water and walked back out to my father. I handed him the bottle and started walking back inside.
“Hey Jordan,” he said taking a swig.
I turned to face him.
“Did anyone strange happen to talk to you today?” It was evident that he was trying to make the question as casual as possible.
I shrugged, “Not really. I’m not that popular.”
He nodded smiling and turned back to his work. “Your mother and sister won’t be back until late tonight,“ he said, “I’m having a guest over so try to look decent, ok?”
I waved away the remark and walked back inside.
Once I was sure my father couldn’t see me I ran up to my room silently cursing all the way. Ok, how did my dad know about my stalker? Why is he upgrading the security system? And why does it seem as if he is trying to get everyone but me away from the house before his guest came?
I hurried into my room and made sure the door was locked. For a minute, I just stood there.
Why was I panicking?
I shivered. Although I knew there was a logical explanation to everything that had happened today but my instincts kept telling me something wasn’t right. What the hell was happening to me? It was as if a sixth sense had awoken in my head screaming for me to get the fuck out of here!
I sat on my bed and smacked myself back to reality. Nothing is going to happen. I’m just still high on pain medication from this morning.
A sudden text message sent me scrambling up my bed. Now I believe my mom when she says those things can kill people.
I picked up my phone to check.
Movies at 9, lee’s back with some cash ;), said Kyle.
I smiled, something to get my mind off of this weird shit. Better for me to rest before I leave. Who knew what crazy shit they had in mind?
I woke up again at eight, back sore, sweating like a pig. I had just had the craziest dream of me being chased across town by some hoodlums in a purple car. I really needed to ease off of Saints Row the Third.
One hour to get dressed and find a way to meet up with the gang downtown. No biggie.
Once dressed, I made my way to the kitchen for something to munch on. My father always made sure there was something to-go in the fridge. His job required it.
As I walked downstairs I noticed that the whole house was back to normal. All the holes in the wall were plastered and the scent of fresh paint still hung in the air. The furniture in the living room had been moved around a bit forming a wide void in the center. I also made the odd realization that the new arrangement gave easier access to the front door and the garage.
I shook my head. Whatever my dad was up to I didn’t care.
I found a tuna sandwich in the fridge and a Hershey’s bar. Best to pocket the bar and eat the sandwich, I thought. I turned to leave and crashed face first into my dad. The sandwich was crammed halfway down my throat. Later I came to realize just how wrong that situation looked. If my friends had seen that they would have ridiculed me for the rest of my existence.
“Uff!” he grunted, “watch out kid.”
I coughed out the sandwich, “What the heck were you doing looking over my shoulder?”
His brow wrinkled, “Nothing,”-awkward pause-“Just wanted a Coke,” he quickly added.
I gave him a look.
He quickly snatched a coke out of the fridge and made a show off popping the tab and taking a sip.
“Dad, are you alright?” I asked scrutinizing his being. He was uncharacteristically dressed in deep gray cargo pants and a tight polyester hoodie. The pants had at least twenty pockets and I could easily tell that most were not empty.
He tensed for a second as if he was trying to make a tough decision. What was up in his head? Did it have to do with all the work he was doing around the house? Did it have something to do with my stalker?
His shoulders relaxed and he let out a deep sigh. “You look like you’re headed somewhere. Am I keeping you?”
The weary look on his face made me reconsider. I guess staying around a bit to figure out what was happening wouldn’t hurt my friends.
“I was but it’s still early,” I lied.
He handed me his coke and reached for a beer and another tuna sandwich from the fridge. “I have a guest coming in half an hour. You probably don’t need to meet him,” he said, “or them.” His face contorted into disgust as he opened is beer and took a swig. “Damn, I didn’t even ask how many were coming,” he said to himself.
“What?” I asked.
He shook his head and walked back to the living room, “I forgot to ask my guest if he was bringing company. Stupid mistake.”
I followed him to the living room. He had taken the seat on the sofa closest to the door and placed his legs upon the rest of the couch.
Was he trying to prevent me from sitting near the front door? My paranoia was on high alert today. Strategically it would be the most dangerous area to be if someone decided not to knock before they entered the house. I sat closer to the garage and noticed his neck muscles ease slightly.
I was right. My father obviously didn’t trust whoever this guest was. He was trying to protect me from him… or them. Is that why he had said I didn’t need to meet them?
“So how’s school going?” he asked.
I blinked, “You haven’t asked me that in a long time.”
He frowned, “Usually I don’t need to ask, your school councilor complains to me enough.” He took another swig, “But lately I haven’t heard from him much. Are you doing better or has he just given up on you?”
I laughed and he chuckled.
“I’m doing better actually,” I said, “some of the math and physics jargon actually makes sense now.”
He scratched his head, “I remember those days. I used to-“
His ears twitched.
You know the thing deer do when they hear a tiger or whatever. Their ears actually move towards the source of the sound. My father’s ears actually did the same exact thing.
He was instantly upright, both hands reaching into two of his larger pockets.
“What’s wrong?” I asked a bit worried, “Are your guests here?”
“They’re early,” he breathed. The menace in his voice was unmistakable.
Only then did I hear the sound of the car pulling up our driveway. My father had heard it when it was probably still half way down the street. How in hell did he do that?
“This wasn’t what I expected,” he breathed as the engine was cut off.
A few seconds passed before we heard a door open and close. Strangely, there was no sound of anyone walking up to the front door.
There was no knock.
“Fletcher?” called a man’s voice from behind the door. It was our family name.
My father strode to the door and opened it. From behind his back I could see a tall white man with long sandy hair similarly built and dressed as my father. Was this some sort of frat reunion? Were they going to have some sorority chicks over? Was that what all the fuss was about?
Of course not.
They quietly shared a few words and I heard the word “son” mentioned. Apparently I wasn’t on the guest list.
Eventually my father let him in but didn’t close the door before checking outside. The guest removed the sunglasses he had on and examined me intensely. His expression gave away nothing but the dim light in his eyes gave me the impression that this man was not to be messed with.
“Jordan, this is John,” said my father gesturing towards the guest, “John, Jordan.”
“Jordan,” he nodded. His voice had a heavy Spanish accent. I doubt John was his real name.
I nodded back silently.
They both sat opposite each other with me in between. The silence was eerie.
“What did he say?” asked my father.
“They are after you. You got sloppy on your last job and they caught a photograph of you leaving. They won’t see it as natural causes,” he said accusingly.
Natural causes. The only place I heard that term used was on CSI, NCIS, or Criminal Minds when they refer to a natural death. That’s not my paranoia. My father fucked up on some job that was supposed to appear as natural causes. Now what job on earth required you make someone’s death appear natural?
I glanced at my father to see him immediately diverted his gaze from my eyes. It was still enough for him to see the horror in my eyes.
He turned to John, “I didn’t screw up the job. If you had been more specific about the tar-“ he briefly glanced at me, “our guy, I wouldn’t have had to use the backup plan.”
My father was now visibly pissed. I had never seen him this enraged in my life. Although he held a controlled face the muscles in his neck were strained and his knuckles were as white as bone.
John looked slightly amused, “You mean this was my fault?” The innocence in his question had me pissed too.
“Look, this isn’t the point,” my father said raising a hand, “How is the situation right now?”
John leaned back in his chair, “They are weak with limited resources. One more elimination and they will be done.”
The disgusted look returned to my father’s face. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve done these jobs. I’m not coming back, John. I’m not doing this for you or the boss. This is the last one.”
“You keep telling yourself that,” said John quietly.
My father’s body jerked. Although I didn’t know this at the time he had actually lunged at John impulsively and decided against it in less than half a second.
My father reached underneath his sofa and pulled out a shoebox.
“Are those the-“ began John.
“Take it and leave,” interrupted my father, “You better get it to him safely. This is the last one I could find. He must have hid the others somewhere else.”
John frowned, “This is an unexpected complication.”
“One that you will have to solve,” replied my father curtly, “It’s late and my wife should be coming. I’d rather she didn’t have to see you again.”
John smiled again then froze.
This time I heard it too.
Soft crunches in the backyard, footsteps, whispers…
In less than a second my father had grabbed my hair and pulled my down to the floor as the deafening sound of a million claps and shattering glass filled the room. Of course every teenager was familiar with the sound of an automatic submachine gun but never in their right mind would expected to hear a real one in their life. CoD’s effects were good but nowhere near reality.
I was stunned momentarily. I felt the surge of adrenaline course through my veins as my animal instinct understood the danger before my brain did. I raised my head slightly after the sound had stopped. The alarm system was wailing loudly and the lights had been shattered with only a shimmer of moonlight illuminating the area. John was dragging himself behind a sofa with dark blood coming out of a gash on his neck and two holes in his shoulder.
“I saw them,” he grunted, “Two, both armed, Steyr MPI 69.”
My father was kneeling next to me a pistol in his hand with a silencer screwed on. His eyes were scanning the darkness. He didn’t seem hurt.
He put a finger to his lip, grabbed me by my collar, and pulled me to him. He brought his face an inch from mine and I could see his eyes smolder.
“Listen carefully,” he whispered barely loud enough for me to hear, “When I tell you to I want you to run to the garage and get in the Audi. The keys are in the ignition. Start the car and run through the garage door, you don’t have time to open it. Keep your head down and drive until you are at least fifty miles away from here. Don’t look back, don’t look for me, and don’t come back here. Everything you need is in the glove compartment. Understand?”
“But-“ I began to protest.
His hand moved up to choke my neck and the fire in his eyes roared. “Listen, boy, don’t think. Do you understand?”
I nodded in fear and his hand loosened.
He stood and squeezed off the entire mag in the direction of the shooters almost as fast as the submachine gun. I heard a muffled scream from outside and saw the gleam of the other submachine gun come back up as I ran through the kitchen to the garage. Another rain of bullets landed on the garage door pulverizing the lock and I dropped onto my hands and knees. I was crying with fear, the tears blurring my vision as I crawled towards my father’s convertible and climbed in. The keys were in the ignition as promised and I revved the engine.
I heard a thud as something hit the car and looked back for my father. Anther hail of bullets rattled across the side of the car and I felt bits of shrapnel strike my ear and neck.
I floored the gas and rammed through the thin aluminum panels of the garage door with little resistance. I saw another shooter at the end of the driveway poised to shoot any runaways. A panel fragment caught him in the face and his bullets went wide only two hitting the windshield. I ducked screaming, and yanked the steering wheel to the left almost flipping the car as it ran over the shooter with an audible crunch. No doubt he was dead.
I was out of the driveway at fifty miles an hour, swerving down our neighborhood street towards the main road. My ear and neck were both pulsing painfully and I could feel moisture running down to my shirt.
I touched the back of my neck and felt the sticky moisture. The pain made me jerk it away and I examined my hand. The sight of the red liquid made my head swirl and I fought the urge to faint. The reality of the situation hit me. My house had been raided and I had just narrowly escaped death. My father was still in the house possibly dead and I had no way of knowing if there was anyone following me at the moment. I wasn’t safe yet.
My foot never eased of the gas as I ran through two red lights at seventy. When I got to the freeway I headed north at a steady hundred. Thank God traffic was light. I spared a glance in the side mirror to see if anyone was following me. The closest car was a seventies classic ten yards and adding behind but I still wasn’t convinced. Fuck fifty miles, I wasn’t stopping ‘til Georgia.
It hadn’t even been five minutes when I heard movement in the back seat. My wits had already been pushed past their end in the shootout.
Suddenly I felt a hand land on my right shoulder.
I jumped out of the seat and screamed like a five year old girl while trying to bat my assailant’s arm off of me.
“I swear to God I’ll run us into a fifty car pile-up you fucking bastard!” I yelled trying to sound threatening. I had escaped death enough in the past half hour.
“Calm down!” I heard my father say, “It’s me.”
What the…? “Dad?”
“Watch out!” he exclaimed as I almost made true on my previous threat, “Keep your eyes on the road.” He climbing into the passenger seat and extended the hard-top of the convertible.
I was still in shock. “How’d you get in the car?”
He chuckled. “While you were busy fumbling with the keys even though they were already in the ignition, I was able to eliminate the backyard shooters and dive into the back seat.” He frowned, “Now I could have easily been another shooter. What would you have done?”
I blinked twice. What would I have done?
“Your plan to cause the fifty car pile-up would not have saved you,” he said matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know what I would have done,” I said dryly, “Jeez, it’s not like this happens to me every day.”
He examined me closely and noticed the blood coming from my neck and right ear. I shrugged trying to act as if they weren’t hurting though they were like hell. The shrug made it worse.
“Take the next exit,” he said, “There is a motel I know where we can spend the night.”
“Where’s John?” I asked dreading the answer.
My father gave me a glance first, straight in the eye, then looked down to his hands.
“Dead,” he replied coldly, “They torched the place as we escaped. His wounds weren’t too good anyway. Either blood loss killed him or he burned to death.”
John was dead. Killed. Murdered.
“Wasn’t he a friend of yours?” I asked trying to make sense of his indifference, “Weren’t you two close.”
“He was a mere colleague, nothing more than an acquaintance. I held no love for the man.”
“Who were the guys that attacked us? What did they want?”
“Jordan,” he said firmly, “What happened tonight was never supposed to happen. I screwed up. There is no need for you to get entangled into this. I will fix this and everything will be back to normal.”
“Back to normal?” I replied bemused, “How in hell will we go back to normal? A bunch of armed men tried to kill us just a minute ago and you say back to normal?! What the hell is wrong with you?!”
I was starting to tremble as hysteria kicked in. My father had to grab me by my shoulders for me to safely pull over.
“Jordan, take a deep breath,” he calmly said as he squeezed my shoulders. “Be strong now, ok? I’ll protect you now, they can’t hurt you here.”
I was still shaking. My insides felt like they were on a barbeque. I opened the door and emptied the content of my stomach. My father quickly produced a bottle of water and a few pills.
“Take these; they’ll help with the queasiness.”
I ignore the pills and drink the water. After a good ten minutes I had somewhat of a hold on myself. We traded seats and he started to drive to the motel he had mentioned.
What had just happened? Who was this John? Who were the armed men who attacked us? Were they after the shoebox my dad had given to John?
“Shouldn’t we call the police?” I say as we pull into the lot of a convenience store.
“I’m pretty sure someone has already done that,” my father replies with an annoyed tone, “They’ll just complicate things. They won’t be able to do much anyway.”
We find a parking spot and stop. He cuts off the engine then sighs as he runs his fingers through his hair. He silently curses before getting out of the car.
“Stay here,” he tells me, “I need to get some things to clean you up.”
I watch through the glass windows of the store as he collects a few T-shirts and medical things. Suddenly my phone rings. I check the screen to see Lee sticking his tongue out at me. I smile.
“Dude!” I hear him yell over some heavy music, “Where the fuck are you man, the party’s started?”
“Sorry man, I’ll have to miss this one,” I reply, “Something happened at my house.”
“Wha? Fuck, you sound funny man. Ya sick?”
I clear my throat. “Nah, I’m alright. I’ll come out some other time.”
He continues to whine on the phone and I can tell he’s drunk. I hang up on him when he decides to give the phone to some chick to convince me to come join them.
My father returns with a two bags in his left hand and a large bottle of some clear alcoholic substance in his right.
“Take your shirt off,” he says popping the cork off the bottle. He takes a chug then proceeds to clean out my wound and bandage it. I had to stuff the shirt in my mouth to keep from screaming.
He gives me one bag. Inside was a bag of T-shirts and, to my amusement, a deep chocolate fleece hoodie. I don them wincing slightly when they brushed against the bandages. Suddenly something dark and shiny appeared under my nose. I pull back to look and I realize it is a combat switchblade. I glance at my father.
He looks back at me with a solemn face, “Keep this on you at all times. Keep it hidden and don’t give it up, ever.”
I take it gingerly and put it inside the hoodie.
He takes another swig of the drink and slumps into his seat, “Jordan if anything happens to me and I can’t protect you, don’t hesitate to defend yourself.”
I try to see through his expression, “What do you mean?”
“I mean exactly what I said,” he replied curtly, “Give me your phone.”
I hand over my phone and he dismantles it completely. He gives me the memory card before he places the remaining pieces under the car behind the front tire. He opens the glove compartment and produces a plastic bag. He opens the bag and hands me a new smartphone.
“This is an encrypted phone,” he explains, “Modified BlackBerry with custom firmware. Unlimited calling, fastest Internet, wireless, camera, voice control, everything you’ll need. It’ll even transfer the calls from your old phone. Also keep it on you at all times.”
I pocket the phone.
He starts the car and backs up. I wince when I hear the crunch of my phone as it is flattened.
We arrive at the motel in a few minutes and request a room. My father pays cash.
“Are we still running from them?” I ask though I know it was a stupid question.
“We need a place to rest,” he replies as we walk into the room, “I have an apartment downtown we’ll move to in the morning once I make sure it is safe.”
I look around the room. It was a typical motel room; two beds, a table and some chairs, a sock drawer with a TV, and a night table with the standard Bible on it. Oh, Lord I was goin’ need that Bible.
I didn’t have bags to unpack or anything so I sprawl out on the bed farthest from the door. I knew the new drill.
My father sat at the table and booted up a laptop he apparently had stashed in the car. I didn’t even bother asking what he was doing though I later learned he was checking footage of our ruined house from hidden cameras he had installed in the neighbors’.
“Dad?” I said breaking the silence.
“Yeah?” he answered still watching the screen.
I gulped, “What do you do other than your entrepreneur thing?”
There was a long pause.
A looooooooong pause.
“I heard your question,” he said wearily.
I sit up and stare at him. He stares right back at me, face expressionless.
“You don’t want to tell me?” I said with a bit of an annoyed tone.
“You’re better off not knowing,” he replied turning his gaze to the window.
I gave up on getting anything from him and tried to fall asleep. Of course the visions of gunmen and assassins didn’t help.