Author: Ric Pike PM
You may think this is a story about my kidnapping, but it's not. You may wish this were a love story, but I don't know that it can be, unless you count my ongoing love affair with bad luck. No, this is about something else. This is about how I, Daniel Forester, who was once #1375, who was Jesse Hunter before that, became something entirely different: a criminal.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Drama - Chapters: 14 - Words: 63,421 - Reviews: 37 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 07-30-12 - Published: 10-27-11 - id: 2964970
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I don't know how he's doing it, but he's doing it. I don't want to be so shallow as to suggest that women only care about money, but I'm sure it makes things a hell of a lot easier for him. Do I need to tell you how hard it is for me to picture Andrew being sweet to a girl, my niece of all people? We're talking the Chicago Bomber here, with a member of my family. It just goes to show that anyone can be anyone. A heartless killer could make a good boyfriend. The leader of a gun smuggling syndicate can be a family man. Even someone you know could be living a double-life. Or in me and Andrew's case, a triple.
Early in, early out, Daniel repeated in his head, as though thinking it would improve his chances for success. He bit his knuckle as his eyes followed the second hand of the clock on the wall. This late into the class period, it was likely that most of the students were doing the same. Daniel refused to pack his things up early, lest he should become the one that started the avalanche of fleeing students. The professor, perhaps feeling the tension, let the class out and Daniel was the second person out the door. He had utilized a great advantage to leaving early. Aside from his mantra, early in, early out, he had chosen a seat in the front row, a place he knew Amy would refuse to follow him to. Now he was in the hallway while she was stuck in the back of a line. Too easy to get trapped, Daniel thought as he speed-walked past the elevators, making way for the stairs instead. He had made it as far as the center of the quad before slowing his pace. No sooner than taking a sigh of relief, he was pushed from behind.
"Hey," it was her.
Shoot. Daniel looked at the ground.
"What's wrong with you? The semester's almost over and you're still not talking to me?"
He could apologize, or he could fight. Both seemed like bad options when it came to her. "Can't you take a hint? We can't hang out anymore."
"Until forever. Now beat it."
Amy gasped, "Beat it? Did you just tell me to beat it?"
"Yes," Daniel looked away again. Breaking eye-contact was a sign of weakness, a mistake he shouldn't have made. When he looked back at Amy, he did a double-take.
She wasn't angry. Her jaw had loosened, her eyes even softened a little. "Daniel, I haven't asked. I kept my promises. I swear."
Daniel studied her. Whether she was being honest or not, it didn't make a difference. So long as she was with Maxim, Daniel couldn't risk being around her. After Maxim got kicked out, he was sure to blow the whole thing wide-open on his next encounter with Daniel. "Well I appreciate that, but it doesn't change anything."
"I still won't ask him or you, no matter how much of a prick you're being. But if you don't start talking to me, I will find out what's going on. Not through you or Max, because I promised, and I keep my promises." She gave him a few seconds to figure it out. "I'll get Andrew to tell me." Daniel held a somewhat neutral glare. "That's right," she continued, "you wouldn't believe how much he's already told me about you. I've got ways of getting him to talk."
Daniel nodded, a smirk on the edge of his lips, "You've got ways?" His phone was buzzing. His retort was cut short when he saw the incoming call. Syd. Daniel turned his back to Amy and took a few steps out, "I thought I told you not to call me," he cupped a hand around the bottom of the phone.
"Yo, we've got a situation."
"Then handle it. Do you remember the deal? I give you the shipment, you give me money-"
"Hey it's serious-"
"You just got your shipment two days ago, you've got no business calling me."
"Listen!" Daniel had to pull his ear away from the phone, Syd kept yelling, "We got jacked, one of our guys was knifed, we need some muscle for retaliation."
Daniel took a few more steps away from Amy for safe measure, rubbing a hand over his mouth at the news.
"Yo, did you hear me?"
"Alright, take it easy," Daniel waved his hand like Syd could see him. "I'll be right over." He hung up and breathed in deep, turning to Amy once more. "We're done here," he left.
She didn't follow.
"So, how did your classes go?" Andrew maintained his posture, wondering if he was sitting too formally. He decided he could play it a little more casual, considering a patron at the next table wasn't wearing shoes.
"Pretty good, only two finals left. I should be all As and Bs," she sipped her white chocolate mocha. The two were in a coffee shop near the school. It was a regular hangout spot of hers, the cashier even knew her name.
Andrew smiled as she spoke. The more time he spent with her, the more certain he was that Emily was in fact Daniel's niece. She was starting to let loose her southern drawl, likely getting more comfortable with him. "That's great."
Emily shrugged, "They're all easy classes."
"To you, they are," Andrew picked up his chai tea.
"Stop," she looked away, "so how's work?"
Andrew's drink stopped short of his lips. "Work... It's been slow. It always slows down around the holidays."
"I thought a big business contractor like you would be on business trips more. Not that I mind you being around," she corrected herself.
"I've got a good reason to stay in town now," he winked at her.
"Ain't you a sweetheart," she looked down and smiled, "but don't turn down those game tickets 'cause of me." Andrew laughed politely. She immediately apologized, "I'm kidding. But that reminds me, my dad was pretty jealous, us goin' to that game and all. Are you... doing anything over Christmas break?"
"No," Andrew sat up. This was it, he almost had eyes on his objective.
"Do you want to come over for dinner on Christmas? Actually we do our family dinner a little before Christmas, 'cause my dad goes to his family's place for the actual Christmas or whatever. I'm sorry, I'm rambling. Our own family dinner is gonna be next week."
Andrew took a victory sip, "I'd love that."
One of the gang members was pacing in the hall when Daniel got to their apartment. "Hey Georgie," Daniel said.
"Damn man, it's Jorge! Hor-hey!" He shook his head and clicked his tongue. "Everyone's inside."
Daniel saw a few spent cigarette butts littered on the ground. As he prepared to go inside he saw a smear of blood on the door, almost hidden from view behind the knob.
Inside was as messy as Daniel remembered it, perhaps even more now because there was a man bleeding God-knows-what diseases onto everything. They were all gathered in the living area, Syd, Jimmy, the guy that never talks, and one man whom Daniel didn't recognize.
"Hold still, God dammit," the man wore a pair of surgical gloves and pored over the victim's abdominal area. The victim was a man everyone simply called 'T,' and Daniel remembered him being Syd's cousin, though he couldn't pinpoint who he heard that from. T looked a lot like a heavier version of Syd and had just as many tattoos, now plainly visible. "Boy, he must have used a short knife, that or maybe your sixpack stopped it, huh? Yeah right," the presumed doctor slapped T on the chest, leaving a bloody hand-print. T oofed and grunted, a plastic sheet crunched under his round bloody body as he rolled from side to side. Daniel had seen enough, he stepped backwards to the closest wall and leaned against it, staring at his feet.
"Our move, Hunter," Syd had broken from the group and approached Daniel. "As soon as we're done here, it's payback."
"Now, hold on. Do we even know who's responsible for this?"
"You're the Hunter, how long's it gonna take to find out?" He drew a pistol that was tucked into his waistband.
"You don't have, a name, or anything helpful?"
Syd scoffed, "How the hell do you think this works? 'Hey my name is John Doe, I'd like to purchase some illegal firearms, here's my address.' No, we don't have a name!"
"Easy," Daniel held a hand up. "The first thing we need to do, is keep calm." He still didn't feel okay to move from the wall. "I understand you're angry about all this, bu-"
"Damn straight! I'ma break every bone in that motherf-"
"Just wait, dammit! What we don't know will kill us." Daniel closed his eyes and caught his breath. "Yeah, we'll get 'em. First we need to find out who is responsible, find out if he's working for someone. We run in there now, we could be swiss cheese in seconds."
"That's why I called you. There's only four of us now, with Max gone and T shanked. We need you to join us on this, and your Bomber friend. Think about it," Syd quit pacing and got in Daniel's face. "The Hunter, the Bomber, the Kid. We'd be unstoppable, a killing machine, the three-"
"The Kid?" Daniel asked, "Is that you?"
Syd stared in absolute bafflement. His glower melted off and he even took a step back."You did not just ask me that."
"I'm sorry, it's just, you'd be the oldest one out of all of us."
Syd stepped up again, "It's a name I got in the joint, shanking wise-cracks like you. The punk that did this is small-time. I say we roll in there-"
"Sorry to interrupt again, you're a convicted felon?"
He grabbed Daniel by the head with a gun still in his right hand, almost head-butting him, "Quit playin' around. I'm talking about blood for blood here."
Daniel forced Syd's hands off of him, "You're a convicted felon, your fingerprints are on file and you've been handing out guns to strangers in the city?" Syd rubbed his face with both hands, flexing quite a bit as he did so. Daniel didn't want to wait for the response, "Forget that, here's what we're going to do. I'm going to see if my Bomber friend will give us a hand. Mind you, that's not a guarantee. In the mean time, sell off what you have, I'll call you when I hear from him."
"We can't sell off what we have, no one's gonna buy from us if they think they can just knife us out of every deal. That's why we need to get this guy now."
"We have almost two weeks until the next shipment, we'll fix this by then. Just... let me sort this out."
There was a greater commotion from the couch-made-surgical-table. "Hang in there pincushion, it's almost over," the doctor grabbed a pair of scissors. He snipped the remaining thread, wiped the incision area, and taped some gauze over the wound. "Okay, we're all done here. I've got some antibiotics for him, but don't ask me for any pain-killers. I know you've got enough dope in here to put down Dee Dee Ramone. Yeah right," he looked around the room for affirmation and backhanded Jimmy in the shoulder, a little tap to punctuate the joke.
"Is he dead?" Daniel asked.
"What? No, he'll be fine. None of his vitals were hit, he just needs to take it easy, especially for the next week."
"No, I meant Dee Dee Ramone."
The doctor gave a nervous chuckle, "You're about ten years too late, kid. Anyways, unless someone else needs a band-aide, I'm out of here." He dropped his surgical gloves and tools into a duffel bag and packed up what appeared to be a briefcase filled with blood-bags, "You guys take it easy, and avoid sharp objects. Or don't," he shrugged as he neared the door, "it'll keep me in business. Yeah right."
Daniel came home to an unwelcome sight. Amy was back, and her smirk said 'with a vengeance.' He stopped for a beat, staring at her in disbelief as she sat on the couch with Andrew. Now that he was getting a good look at her, she looked thinner than he remembered. Considering her already slender figure, it didn't suit her. Daniel retreated to his room without giving her a word.
"You're not going to say hi?" Andrew asked her. She pulled deep from her beer. "Okay, whatever," Andrew dismissed, feeling the tension in the air. "If you're not here to hang our with him, why did you come?"
"You offered beer," Amy smiled.
"Just for the beer?" Andrew asked. "I don't believe that."
"I can't believe you actually got some for me."
"It's not that hard... if you're legal."
"Shut up," Amy grabbed the remote and flipped through the channels. When she could find nothing worthy of her attention, she returned to the news and turned the volume down. "Let's play a game. A drinking game."
Andrew scoffed, "A drinking game? Do I look sixteen?"
"Truth or drink."
He took a second to look into his glass, considered the merits of a game, "Go ahead. Let's hear the rules."
"It's easy, kind of like truth or dare. I ask you a question. You can either answer, with the truth, or take a drink."
"Sounds simple enough," Andrew sat up.
"Wait. If a question is passed with a drink, it can't be asked later. Also, every time you choose drink, you have to increase the number of drinks by one. So on your first 'drink,' you take one drink. On your second 'drink' you take two. Got it?"
"I'm about two glasses further than you, you should at least chug that beer before we start," Andrew said.
"No, you probably have a higher tolerance than me anyway."
"Fine, who starts?"
"You're the host, you start."
"Okay," Andrew planned his strategy. He needed to drink her under the table, get her to stop asking questions as soon as possible. At the same time, he planned a secondary objective, finding out useful information for Daniel. "What's up between you and Daniel?"
Amy winced at the sudden blow, then drank. It was her turn. "How did you and Daniel meet?"
Andrew hadn't decided if he would lie or drink when questions like this were asked. He would have to read the situation, drink where appropriate but skirt the truth as much as possible. "We met at a fight in school. It was me against, I don't know eight or nine other kids. He was just watching on the sidelines, and I guess he liked my gall because he jumped in, saved my ass."
"Shut up. You have to tell the truth."
"You wouldn't believe the truth," Andrew waved her off.
Amy leaned in, beer on her breath, "Try me."
Andrew stared at her for a minute, accepting the challenge. "It was me against thirty. And I didn't need him to save my ass."
"Shut up," she slapped his arm.
"I told you," he shrugged. "My turn. Why did you come here tonight. And tell the truth."
Amy looked at the floor, Andrew read hurt on her face for a moment. She took two drinks, finishing off her beer. She went to the fridge for another.
Andrew continued planning his strategy. She was almost two beers in when we started, assuming one-ounce per 'drink,' three more 'drinks' would complete her third beer, two more after that would be her fourth beer. At the rate we're going, that should finish her off.
"How come Daniel doesn't know about the internet?" she said with her head in the refrigerator.
"He's a country boy, he doesn't know about a lot of things."
Amy laughed as she crossed the room, falling back onto the couch.
This may be over sooner than I thought, Andrew thought with satisfaction. "Would you date Daniel if he asked you out?"
"Ugh," she scoffed and turned away, "not about him again."
"He's all you've been asking me about," Andrew reasoned.
"Fine," she said, taking a long drink from her beer, number three. "Okay, uhhh... how come you don't have a girlfriend?" she sat too close, her leg was almost on top of his.
"I do," Andrew said.
"Shut up, what's her name?"
"You already used yours, it's my turn." Amy made a pouty face, but it wasn't enough to keep Andrew from firing his question. "You obviously don't care for journalism, why are you really going to school here?"
Amy redirected her attention on slowly peeling the label from the beer bottle. "Because of my boyfriend," she said, all the joy gone from her stupor.
Despite the fact that she answered instead of drinking, Andrew knew he had found the weak spot. "Not good enough, give me something more."
She scoffed yet again, "Because he promised me he could make a living for the both of us here." She took another drink, despite having answered. "I didn't know he was involved with a gang." She stared into the floor for a long minute, finally remembering that it was her turn. "What do you do for a living?I mean really, what do you do?"
Andrew stared at her, contemplating drinking this one through. He had answered each time, and didn't want to bring doubt to the credibility of his answers. On the other hand, if he plead the fifth, it would be even more suspicious. "I'm a contractor," he said in all seriousness. Amy sighed at his answer, he felt like he had made the wrong choice. Nevertheless, he pressed on, "What happened to you face?" he asked. He was speaking of a small bruise on her right cheek that she hid behind her hair for most of the night. As the alcohol set in, she habitually brushed her hair back, not that it took that long for Andrew to notice. Amy downed the entire bottle of beer. She slammed it on the table, Andrew was afraid she cracked the glass tabletop. She was drinking to forget, this was almost too easy and Andrew considered his objective complete. "I think we should stop here," he suggested.
"Have you ever done anything illegal?" she pulled her hair down so the bruise was covered again.
Andrew studied her, planning his answer. He decided to take the direct route, "Yes."
"What's the most illegal thing you've done?" her words were starting to slur.
"You've used your turn," Andrew stated.
"Oh," she looked at her last bottle on the table. She stood to grab another, Andrew didn't stop her.
He waited for her to open the next one, thereby committing to her turn. "Did your boyfriend beat you?" Andrew asked as she stumbled back to the couch.
Amy fell on him, sitting across his lap. She leaned back, finishing the entire beer in one chug then slamming the bottle on the table, shaking the other standing bottles.
"Have you ever killed a person?" she managed to blurt out, keeping a hand over her eyes.
Andrew helped her sit up again, scooting her off of him and onto the couch. "I think you've had enough. It's time for you to go home."
"No," she protested, "can't I just stay here?" she used both hands to cover her face.
"No, I'll walk you home."
It was cold out, but Andrew felt flush with warmth thanks to the whiskey. Amy needed an arm to lean on, but was otherwise still capable of walking. Every few steps she would bring a hand up to wipe her eyes. Andrew didn't want to look.
After the twenty-minute journey with repeated "thank you"s and stating that she wasn't feeling well, Amy arrived at her front door. She dug through her purse, soon turning around with a very nervous look. "You're going to kill me," she started.
"I forgot my keys," she admit, looking like she was on the verge of sobbing.
"Where, at my place?"
"I think so. Please don't be mad."
"Don't you have a roommate?"
"She's out of town, I'm sorry," she held her lips tightly together.
"Okay, step aside."
"What? We need to go back to get my keys," she said.
"I've got this," he placed his hands on the doorknob. "Just turn around."
"You can't look. Turn around."
She complied, frowning in protest. After a minute she interjected, "We have to get my keys... might as well stay at your place tonight..."
"Done, you can look now." He had the door open.
Amy nearly stumbled back, "How did you do that? Oh my god, are you a spy or, or a jewel thief?"
Andrew held up a very familiar object, "Your keys. You left them on the counter."
She thanked him one more time and the next thing she knew, she was on her bed, coat on the floor and one shoe kicked off.
"What the hell was that about?" Daniel asked as soon as Andrew returned. Daniel was back-lit from the light in his room, but Andrew didn't need much to tell that he was mad.
"She misses you, Dan."
That one got him, and he shifted from one foot to the other. "So what, you're playing drinking games with her now?"
"It was the easiest way to get her off of my back. And, I found out some things about her too."
"You're the one that said we shouldn't be bringing people in here."
Andrew was a little disappointed that Daniel didn't inquire about what he learned of Amy. He'd have to tell him straight. "I'm not the one that brought her here. She's here because of you. She needs help. You, Daniel, she's crying for your help."
Daniel stood still. The room was too dark for any changes in his face to be seen, but he just stood, leaning on the door-frame. Finally he went back into his room, closing the door.
Andrew hit the kitchen light and took to cleaning up the table. He grabbed the bottles and collected the bottle caps, noticing there was a little bit left in the last beer Amy had chugged. He held it up, looking into it like he could see some of Amy's sadness left inside. "Yes, I have killed people," he said, then finished it for her.
From his desk, Daniel silently reviewed his options, playing with the bullet he had found in his coat pocket weeks ago. Andrew had gone soft, now a completely different person than Daniel had moved in with. Drinking games, for Christ's sake! he scratched his head. There was a knock on his door and Daniel dropped the bullet in surprise.
"I forgot to tell you," it was Andrew, "I've succeeded in phase one of my mission." Daniel returned a blank stare, Andrew cleared his throat, "What I mean is, I've been invited to meet Emily's family. Next week." He waited for Daniel to say something, maybe a 'good job' or just a 'great.' When his roommate remained silent, Andrew left, closing the door quietly.
Daniel pulled out his phone, dialing out.
"Yes?" the question without inflection, unrelated to the late hour.
"Hey, sorry to call so late," Daniel kept his voice down. He hoped for some forgiveness but winded up biting his lip through the silence. "I have uh..." he took a deep breath, "I need your help."