Chapter 1

I knew today was going to be hell when I woke up with a splitting headache and wearing a dress.

The headache I could handle, but the dress? Why the fuck was I wearing a dress?!

Looking around, I realized I was laying on a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange house. I had no idea where the fuck I was, but I just knew I had to get out of here. And fast.

Sitting up, I winced as my head retaliated for the quick movement by throwing a sack full of hammers around in my skull. Grabbing my head in pain, I sat still for a moment, then finally worked up the energy to stand up, groaning as nausea roiled thickly through my stomach. Staggering to the door, I opened it and peeked out, looking around.

There was a staircase to my right leading down to what I guessed was the first floor. Across from me was what looked to be a bathroom, so I quickly snuck my way towards it, shutting and locking the door behind me as I stepped in. Letting out a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding, I leaned against the door for a second, then straightened and looked in the mirror.

Hmm, I didn't look too bad in a dress. Fluffing my hair, I pouted my lips, then laughed and shook my head. What the hell was I doing?

Reaching down, I grabbed the hem of the dress and quickly whipped it off, grimacing when I discovered I wasn't wearing my boxers. Tossing the dress on the floor, I grabbed some baggy shorts from the ground and pulled them on, scrunching my nose at the thought of wearing someone else's dirty clothes. God, I hope these were less than a couple days old.

Taking a quick piss, then washing my hands and face, I stepped out of the bathroom, then stealthily made my way around the top floor, peeking into all the rooms, looking for my missing clothes. When I failed to find them, I sighed, then gave up and headed downstairs.

There were several bodies lying around, girls and boys passed out on the floor, couch, chairs, and any other available surface. The air was filled with the stench of booze, sweat, and vomit, and what looked like hundreds of cups were lying around, most of them with liquid still in them. Music played faintly from a stereo, which looked to be missing a speaker.

Holding my breath, I wandered through the house, finding a bedroom on the first floor. Searching through the dresser drawers, I found a plain white t-shirt and pulled it on, then went back out into the living room. Looking through the selection of people, I found a guy my size, then crouched down and carefully took off his shoes. Plopping down onto my ass, I quickly slipped them on my own feet, grinning in satisfaction at the perfect fit.

Standing up, I gave myself a quick shake, then headed outside, nearly howling as the bright sun pierced my eyes, making me cringe in pain. I waited the next few minutes for my eyes to adjust, then looked around, trying to get my bearings. I mean, where the hell was I?!

This was obviously a wealthier neighborhood. Well, if you can call "typical suburbia" upper class. But, I guess I could, seeing as I was homeless and all.

Yes, I am homeless. Dramatic sigh. Pity me. Oh, woe is me!

But, seriously, it's not all that bad. As long as I take care of myself and mind my own business, it's okay. Plus, I have lots of amounts of free time, so kudos for that. And, I don't have to pay rent.

Or taxes.

Ha! Take that, government!

Anyway, back to my present predicament. My unknown location. Um, well, I've never been here before, so I can cross off looking for something familiar. So, with that plan, I started walking down the street, keeping as straight a path as I could. There had to be an end to this neighborhood somewhere, and, if I kept walking in one direction, I was bound to find the end of it.

After about twenty minutes, I finally hit the jackpot. The terrain went from family-friendly green grass to industrial dirt, and I knew I'd found my way out. Cutting through a fenced off lot, I came out onto the side of one of the roads that I vaguely recognized that ran through the city. Meandering along the sidewalk, I kept my eyes peeled for any shops or buildings that I recognized.

Finally spotting a diner I somewhat remembered, I took a left down another road, then finally - after a few more minutes of walking - knew where I was at. Walking more confidently, I eagerly hurried down several streets, each one getting dingier and dirtier as I continued. I entered what I guess some people would call the 'bad part of town,' but, to me, it was home.

"Hey, looky here," someone shouted from a mouth of an alleyway as I was walking past it. "It's lil' Melody."

I stopped, a sort of grimace-smile making it's way onto my face. "Tucker, you know I hate being called that," I said, turning towards the man in the alley.

At six feet three inches tall, Tucker was an imposing, if anorexic-ly thin, male, who I guessed was somewhere in his late twenties, early thirties. He smoked like a chimney, and he swore like a sailor, but he was tough and fiercely loyal to his followers. You see, Tucker was a drug dealer. Small time, but he had quite a few underlings who helped him branch out his business, so he did pretty good, money wise.

"So, Melody," Tucker continued, ignoring my frustrated sigh, "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be on the streets performing?"

"Yes, I should be. Unfortunately, through a strange series of events, I woke up late, and haven't had time to prepare for work," I said, walking towards Tucker. I stopped in front of him, leaning against the wall beside him, watching as he inhaled deeply on his cigarette.

"Hmm," he exhaled, sliding his eyes towards mine, "That's too bad. I haven't heard you play in a while. I was looking forward to it today."

I scoffed lightly. "Your flattery will get you nowhere."

"Hey, I'm not trying to flatter you!" Tucker said, his tone disbelieving that I would even mention that.

"Oh, so the next words out of your mouth aren't gonna be asking me for a favor?"

Tucker gave me a sheepish grin. "Well, now that you mention it..."

I sighed, shaking my head. "What do you need, Tucker?" I asked in a tired voice.

Tucker grinned, dropping his cigarette and putting it out. He leaned towards me and began whispering, even though there was no one else around. "I need you to pick something up for me. You know, stash it in your instrument case, then drop it off somewhere. The usual."

Squeezing my eyes shut, I nodded, then looked at Tucker. "Fine. Same fee, as usual."

Plucking a small scrap of paper from his pocket, Tucker handed it to me. "Memorize it. Burn it."

I looked at the two addresses, easily memorizing them. The first one was for pick-up, the second for drop off, as was customary. Without looking at Tucker, I held out my hand. "Lighter."

Feeling a weight plop into my hand, I lifted the lighter and flicked it on, then held the small scrap of paper above the flame. It burst into a small flame, then quickly curled and blackened, the flames easily devouring the paper. Letting the ashes float to the ground, I handed the lighter back to Tucker, then, without a word, I turned on my heal and left.

I made my way to a little Chinese family restaurant a few blocks, opening the door with a little jingle of the welcoming bell. Ignoring the customers, I headed to the back and into the kitchen, nodding hello to Huang, the cook. Heading into a small utility closet, I shoved a bucket aside, then crouched down and grabbed a well-concealed rung, lifting up a section of the floor, revealing steps leading down into the basement.

I began heading confidently down the steps, shutting the floor after me, dropping me into complete darkness. After a few more steps, I slid my hand along the wall, finding the light switch. Flicking it on, the small room I entered was quickly filled with light.

"Ah, home sweet home," I muttered cynically.

I had two more days here, then I was supposed to get out. The Chinese family who owned the restaurant gave me a week to stay here, as long as I paid them--and did them a few favors. A week, and no more. Then, I had to find another place to stay. But, at least I got to sleep in a bed for a week, so I wasn't gonna complain.

Going over to the bed set in the corner of the sparse room, I leaned down and reached under it, pulling out a large, black, rectangular case. With three sharp snaps, I opened the latches and lifted the lid, revealing a shiny, well-polished gold-colored saxophone.

Running my hand reverently over the instrument, I took it out of the case and quickly put it together, giving it a few experimental blows. Sweet, sultry notes flowed from the horn, and I did a few practice scales, my fingers lightning quick and agile across the keys.

Sighing, I put my baby away before one of the owners came down and yelled at me, then set the case on the bed. Stretching, I let my fingers trail along the low ceiling, then bent down at the waist and reached for the floor, setting the palms of my hands on it. Straightening, I did a few more stretches, then groaned as all my muscles loosened.

Shaking my head, I grabbed my case and hefted it up, then headed back upstairs. Leaving the restaurant, I walked 20 minutes to a popular, well-used street corner near a strip mall, then set my case down on the sidewalk. Crouching down, I took out my sax and stood back up. Feeling a small, familiar flutter of nerves in the pit of my stomach, I took a deep breath, then brought the mouthpiece to lips and began to play.

At first, as I played softly, no one really noticed me, but, as I quickly gained confidence and began to play louder, I saw out of the corner of my eye several people's heads turn. Closing my eyes, I focused on the music, tuning out everything around me. I distantly heard the tink as coins landed in my case, but I easily shut that out, drowning myself in the sweet sound of the instrument.

I let the volume and pace increase, feeling my heart beat in time with the music, the natural rhythm spurning me on. Letting my fingers fly over the keys, I went faster and faster, my little world speeding up with the tune. Faster, my fingers moved over the keys. Faster, the notes reverberated through the air. Faster, my blood pumped through my veins. Faster, faster, faster!

Suddenly, quick as a blink, I stopped, the last note ringing in the air, hanging on the edge of my consciousness. As the note died off, I slowly re-entered the movement, starting off with a deep, low, rumbling note. With an aching feeling in my chest, I let the sax cry for me, transferring all my emotion into the music.

I don't know how long I played. Occasionally, I'd take a break and sit on the side walk, watching all the people walk by, trying to guess what kind of life they had to stave off boredom. Sometimes I even played a few requests. By the time I finished, the sun was just beginning to sink behind the city building, and the crowds began to thin as the stores nearby closed for the night and people began to head home.

Sighing, I looked at my watch, a feeling of dread overcoming me as I remembered I still had a favor to do for Tucker. Standing, I quickly packed up, gathering the money from my case and stuffing it in a secret compartment, then lifted the case and began walking towards the memorized address.

It took me about 15 minutes to get to my destination in the run-down, crime ridden neighborhood. It was fully dark by the time I walked up the porch of the shabby, dilapidated house and knocked on the warped door (yes, I was disliking this very much, as you can tell by my colorful descriptions). After a few minutes, the door opened a crack, the security chain only allowing the door to open a few inches.

"Whatchu want?" the person who answered the door asked gruffly.

"I'm here to pick up a package." When I saw the guy's eyes narrow in suspicion, I quickly added, "For Tucker."

The guy suddenly slammed the door shut, and, for a second, I blinked, thinking I'd just been ignored. But, as I heard the security chain rattle and the door quickly re-open, I felt stupid when I realized he'd had to close it to undo the chain.

He gestured me inside, and, with a feeling of walking to my doom, I entered the run-down house, looking around with a kind of grim interest. The inside of the house wasn't as bad as the outside, as attested by the big screen TV, the few game consoles connected to it, and some nice looking (if mis-matched) furniture.

There were two other guys sitting on the furniture playing some sort of shooter video game, with plates and other garbage littering the living room. They all spared me a quick, cursory glance, but quickly went back to whatever they were doing when they deemed me harmless.

I watched as the guy who answered the door went down a small hallway and disappeared, then came back carrying a small package wrapped in brown paper. Looking me up and down, he slowly handed the package to me, watching as I lifted my sax case up and set it on a nearby table.

Opening the case, I began picking at the lining, revealing a medium-sized compartment beneath it. Shoving the package into it, I quickly shut the compartment, leaving behind no trace that it was there. Closing the sax case, I snapped the locks on it shut, then lifted it and gave the guy one last look.

With a twist of my lips, I gave him a mocking two-fingered salute, saying, "Pleasure doing business with you."

And then the house exploded.

Okay, it didn't really explode, per say, but it felt and sounded like it.

I automatically dove to the ground, clutching my case in a death grip, and crawled behind the kitchen island and between the bar stools as the front door burst open. Something shattered the windows and a small, black thing came flying through the opening and landed on the ground with a few bounces. Smoke began pouring from it, and I quickly covered my face with the neck of my shirt, taking shallow breaths as my eyes began to water.

Holding my case to my chest, I curled around it and squeezed my eyes shut as a quick burst of gunfire suddenly broke out, and a gurgling scream was quickly cut off. Biting my lips, I held on as the floor shook with rapid, heavy footsteps. They came closer, and I let out an unconscious squeak as a hand grabbed the back of my collar and hauled me up.

I tried to open my eyes, but the smoke was still thick in the air, and I only caught a glimpse of two steel gray eyes before I had to shut my watering eyes again. Something tugged at my sax case, and I finally felt something snap inside me as I kicked out, connecting with something solid. There was a grunt, then I fell to the ground as whoever was holding me let go.

Hunched over, I crawled forward on my knees, clutching my case to my chest as I blindly tried to get away. Someone grabbed the back of my shorts and yanked on them, but I fell to my back and kicked out, then used my feet to propel my back as I slid along the floor until I hit carpet. Scrambling to my feet, I squinted my eyes open and could make out vague shapes as I heedlessly tried to make my way to the front door.

I let out an involuntary scream as I was roughly tackled from behind, and I fell to the ground with a breathless groan. I heard a sickening crunch, then felt the pain as shards of glass embedded themselves in my exposed skin. I tried to struggle, but let out a moan as the glass just dug itself in even deeper. My eyes opened of their own accord, and, though my vision was a little blurry, I could see.

I looked around me, and saw about eight men dressed in black, bulky tactical gear spread out around the house, along with three plain-clothes men. The two other guys who had been here playing games on the TV now laying on the ground in handcuffs. The guys who had answered the door for me was efficiently patted down, then the officer started leading him towards me.

I looked to the side and saw I was just a few yards away from the door. The officer holding me down tightened his grip on me as he saw the direction I was looking. I felt my ribs give a creak of protest as it became harder to breath, and I opened my mouth to say something, but, before I could, someone else spoke.


I jumped as the guy who opened the door yelled at me, and turned my head to look in his direction. He was a lot closer than before, and, as I felt a sinking feeling deep in my gut, he let out a savage yell and broke free from the policeman's grasp and ran straight for me. Before anyone could react, he pulled his foot back and kicked out, slamming the toe of his shoe into the side of my head.

Instant pain erupted in my head, and I felt my stomach roil with nausea as little black dots filled my vision. I felt myself suddenly lifted up, and the steel gray eyes were back. My head lolled on my unsupported neck, and I felt someone grab my hair and hold my head up. The gray eyes stared into mine, and I distantly heard words shouted at me, but I couldn't understand what they were saying.

I suddenly realized how tired I was. I mean, jeez, I hadn't slept very well last night. Or was that the night before? What day was it even today? Wait...what...what was I doing here? With a groan, I let my eyes slide closed, feeling like a weight was suddenly lifted off my shoulders.

With a final sigh, I let my body go limp as everything went black.

"Hey, doc, how's our boy doin'?"

I'm doing just fine, thanks for asking, I thought sarcastically, my eye twitching.

I was currently in the hospital right now, being treated for a concussion from that asshole who kicked me. Apparently, I had walked right into a drug bust, and had been caught in the middle of things when the police arrived.

How do I know all this, you ask?

Because I'm psychic, duh!

Okay, not really. I sweet-talked a nurse into telling me. Lucky me, I'm the talk of the emergency room. No one knows what such a sweet little kid like me was doing in a drug house with those big, ol' bad drug dealers. Of course, there was no way in hell I was telling them I was there for business, even if the business wasn't mine.

I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

A couple cops already came in and questioned me, so I just played the young, dumb, scared homeless kid act, and they just ate it up. I simply told them I was there because one of the drug guys said he'd hire me to play my sax for a party or something. I knew nothing about the drugs. Then I just kept asking where my sax was at, and they finally left when I pretended to get hysterical.

Of course, I wasn't all pretending. I really was feeling a little panicky. Where the hell was my saxophone?! Where's my baby?!

Opening my eyes, I sat up on the bed as I listened to the doctor talk with someone just outside my room. Aw, jeez, another cop? Haven't enough of them been through here? Haven't I answered all their questions yet?

The doctor told the cop a bunch of medical jargon I didn't understand, then I heard his footsteps, followed closely by another person's, as they entered my room. I felt myself tense up when I saw steel gray eyes staring back at me, and I narrowed my own eyes in response.

"H-hey," I said to the doctor, pointing at steel-eyes, "I don't want him in here. He's the one who did this to me!"

"It's your own fault," steel-eyes said calmly, "You shouldn't have resisted arrest."

"You threw me in a pile of glass!!" I accused, watching in satisfaction out of the corner of my eye as the doctor's eyebrows rose fractionally.

"Is this true, detective?" the doctor asked, turning to steel-eyes.

"Do you believe everything a felon tells you, doctor?" steel-eyes countered with.

I narrowed my eyes at him, a sinking feeling in my gut. This guy wasn't like the other policemen. He was smarter, more cynical. And I've got a feeling my poor homeless boy act won't work on him.

I took a good, long, hard look at him, measuring him up. He had close-cropped dark brown hair, thick shoulders, and lithe, springy muscles. His face was hard and tense, and looked like it was incapable of smiling. He looked to be rather short as he stood next to the doctor, but the way he carried himself left no doubt that he was not to be trifled with.

"Look," I interrupted, sounding tired. "I just want my sax back. Then I'll get out of your hair."

Steel-eyes gave the doctor some sort of look, which caused the doctor to nod his head and leave.

Uh-oh. Not good. No witnesses.

"So..." steel-eyes drawled. "What were you really doing at that house?"

I blinked innocently at him. "I already told the other policemen. I was--"

"Don't bother with the tale," steel-eyes said, shaking his head. "I'm not an idiot. I want the truth."

Stick to the story. Stick to the story. Stick to the story.

No matter how piercing his eyes are, don't give in.

"I was simply in the wrong place--"

Steel-eyes slammed his hand against the wall, making me jump and my heart stutter. "Don't lie to me," he growled.

I looked at him with wide eyes, my heart in my throat. I couldn't help remembering the feel of his body against mine back at the house when he'd pinned me to the floor. He was made of pure, solid muscle, and he could do some real damage to me. After all, I was laying here, prone in a hospital bed, alone in the room, and he could get in a few good punches before anyone would come to my rescue.

I swallowed, my mouth dry, and felt my hands start to shake as I pushed myself against the back of the bed, trying to sink into it and disappear. Cold, hard fear seized my mind, and my blood ran cold through my veins. After all, you can't live on the street without hearing about corrupt cops, or cops who like to beat the answers out of their arrests.

He took a step towards me, and I tensed, expecting a rain of blows. Pausing, he gave me a hard, searching look, then suddenly sighed and continued forward. Stopping in front of me, I held my breath as his hand moved, but, to my surprise, instead of hitting me, he simply tossed a couple scraps of paper into my lap, then took a step back.


"It's a ticket," Steel-eyes muttered. "We have your saxophone back at the station in the evidence ward. Show that to the guys at the desk, and you'll get your instrument back. The other paper's my card. It has my number. Call me when you want to tell me the truth."

I blinked, giving him a confused look. "Uh, does that-does that mean I'm free to go?"

Steel-eyes growled, glaring at me. "We have no evidence against you. There's nothing to hold you. Otherwise, you'd be stuck in a cell with the other scum."

I gulped, pulling the hospital blanket up to my chin and hiding half my face beneath it. Nodding my head, I watched as steel-eyes gave me one last glare, before turning and leaving the room.

Letting the blanket fall from my hands and my entire body go limp, I groaned, dropping my head against my chest. God, I needed to get out of here.

I waited for the routine check-up, then, when I was finally alone, I carefully pulled out the IV, my stomach issuing a squeamish twist, then slid out of bed, wobbling a little bit. Gaining my balance, I walked over to a closet on the side of the hospital room and opened it, frowning when I didn't find any clothes.

Sighing, I tiptoed over to the door, sticking my head out and looking around. I could hear the chatter of people not too far away, but the hallway was empty, so I took a chance and stepped out, slipping into a neighboring room.

There was an older guy sleeping soundly in the bed, so I silently made my way over to the closet and opened it, a feeling of accomplishment erupting in my chest when I spotted some clothes. Grabbing them, I snuck into the room's bathroom and ripped off the papery cloth they called a dressing gown here, letting it float to the ground.

Pulling on his clothes, I grimace as they sagged, the sizes way too big. Oh, well. At least I wasn't running around naked. I might get a few looks and raised eyebrows at the button up shirt and slack, not to mention the bowler shoes, but at least I'd be able to walk out of here.

Placing a little, dinky ugly brown hat on the top of my head, I puffed out my chest, then nodded at myself in the mirror. The bandage around my head stood out starkly against my hair, and the hat barely covered it, but it would have to do.

With a confidence I didn't have, I stepped out of the bathroom and the room, then made my way down the hallway, holding my breath. I successfully made my way to the elevator and got in, then pressed the button for the ground floor. Once I arrived, I stepped out and made my way to the hospital entrance, letting out a relieved breath when I finally exited the building.

I didn't stop walking until I was a few blocks away. Stopping, I looked back, smiling when I didn't see any security guards chasing after me. Woot!! I'd successfully escaped!!

Going at a more sedate pace, I hopped on a bus and paid the fee with some change I'd found in the pants pocket, then rode it to a neighborhood where I knew Tucker liked to hang out. Getting off the bus, I made my way to Tucker's hang out, feeling the anger in me fester and grow. By the time I reached the house, I was spitting mad.

I banged on the door, then shoved passed the guy who answered it, using the element of surprise to move him. Feeling a sense of Deja vu, I ignored it and stomped into the living room. Spotting Tucker playing some sort of racing game on the TV, I stepped in front of the screen and ignored the yells of his goons who were also playing.

"Melody!" Tucker yelled, standing up, a smile on his face. "I thought you were arrested!"

"No, I was just fucking kicked in the head, hospitalized, and interrogated by the cops because you got me into this fucking mess!!" I yelled, gesturing wildly, my head starting to pound sickeningly.

Tucker's smile disappeared, replaced with a look of regret. "Gee, I'm really sorry about that, Mel. I didn't know that was gonna happen, or I wouldn't have sent you."

I snorted, crossing my arms.

"You didn't say anything, did you? To the cops?" Tuck asked with an uncaring air, but I knew the answer was important.

"You should know me better, Tuck. I owe you too much to talk."

Tucker gave me a shit-eating grin. "Good boy," he said happily. "I knew I could count on you to keep your trap shut."

"I think I deserve some compensation, though, Tuck," I said.

"Oh," Tucker asked, his tone inquiring. "For what? I don't see my package, Mel. You didn't exactly accomplish anything."

Knowing I was on dangerous territory, I quickly gave Tucker what he'd want to hear. "Look, I got the package before the pigs arrived and arrested everybody. It's well hidden in my sax case."

"And where, pray tell, is your case?"

I gulped. "At the police station. The cops took it in as evidence." Before Tucker exploded, I quickly held up my hands. "B-but, I-I can get it back. I have a ticket for it, and the cops said I can go pick it up since they checked it and didn't find anything."

"You better get it back, Melody," Tucker said, his voice threatening.

"I will, Tuck," I said, feeling like I was back on safe ground. "But, I'm gonna need a new change of clothes. And a shower. Obviously, I can't go like this," I said, picking at the old man's clothes.

Tucker snapped his fingers, nodding at one of his men, who disappeared with a sullen look, then quickly came back with a handful of clothes. He threw them at me, giving me a glare, and I stuck my tongue out at him, then ran to the bathroom and slammed the door shut before the goon could do anything. Locking the door, I stripped, then stepped into the shower and turned the water on nice and hot.

I decided not to wash my hair, seeing as I still had the band-aid thingy wrapped around it, and, truthfully, I felt a little hesitant of getting the wound wet. I mean, what if the wound started bleeding and wouldn't stop? I could die from blood loss!!

The cuts on my arms and legs from the broken glass weren't too bad, I saw as I pulled the little butterfly band-aids off them, and I could easily put some more on bandages on by myself. They stung a little as I scrubbed myself down with soap, but I felt marginally cleaner as I finally washed off. Turning off the water, I stepped out of the shower and quickly dried off, then got dressed in my new set of clothes.

The pants were a little baggy, but I had a belt, so I just cinched it really tight. The white wife-beater revealed more skin than I was comfortable with, but at least the shoes fit. Pulling up one of the pant legs, I stuck some band-aids I had found in the cupboard on the worst cuts on my leg, then did the same with my arm.

Finally feeling clean, I left the bathroom, then headed into the kitchen for something to eat. I made myself a nice big ham sandwich, and sat at the table watching the guys play their games on the TV.

"Tucker," I said once I finished. "Once I get my sax back, I'm taking your package out. I don't want to be walking around with it on my person. I suggest you get one of your guys to come with me so he can take it from me."

"Fine," he said, waving a distracted hand at me. "Amos, go with him."

One of his goons nodded, then headed towards the front door. I quickly followed behind him as we left the house and went over to one of the nice-looking cars parked alongside the sidewalk. We got in, and, without a word, made our way to the police station.

"Alright," I said when we arrived, "I'll be right back."

I paused, waiting for an answer, but when the goon--Amos--remained silent, I sighed, then exited the vehicle. I felt a little tingle of anxiety go up my spine as I entered the police station, but I ignored it and made my way up to the front desk. The secretary directed me to the evidence locker in the basement, and I took the elevator down one floor.

Stepping out of the elevator, I was met with another desk. But, this one was behind a sturdy chain-link fence, and it was manned by an old guy in a police uniform. I went up to him and showed him my ticket, then waited fifteen minutes as he searched through all the rows and rows of evidence until he finally found my saxophone.

Opening a gate in the fence, he handed me my sax, and I quickly, not to mention happily, left. Slipping back into the goon's car, I opened my sax case and opened the secret compartment, then pulled out the package and handed it to the goon. He looked it over, nodded, then turned to me.

"Get out."

I blinked at him in confusion. "Huh?"

"Get out. You are not needed anymore," he said in a thick Spanish accent.

"What about my money?"

"We will get it to you later."

When I hesitated, he suddenly whipped out a gun from nowhere and pointed it at my gut.

"Alright, alright!" I said, opening the door and quickly scrambling out of the car.

I grunted as I landed on my ass on the hard concrete, then grimaced as the goon slammed the door shut and took off with squealing tires. Holding my sax case to my chest, I sighed, closing my eyes.

"What the hell are you doing?"

I tensed as I heard the voice behind and above me. Sighing, I opened my eyes and tilted my head back, looking up into steel-eyes' hard face. He was in a tight-fitting navy blue t-shirt and blue jeans, along with brown worker boots, and a pair of sleek looking sunglasses perched atop his head.

"I'm sitting, can't you tell?" I bit out sarcastically.

"On the ground? In front of the station? After being shoved out of a car?"

"That's what we homeless folk do," I said in a random southern drawl.

Steel-eyes sighed, then grabbed the back of my collar and yanked me up.

"Hey," I squeaked, "This is police brutality! Police brutality!"

"Oh, shut up," he scoffed, giving me a rough shake before letting me go. "If I was being brutal, you wouldn't be able to yell."

I turned and glared at him, dusting myself off with one hand. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever."

"Great comeback," steel-eyes said, a small smirk twisting his features.

I glared at him, feeling my hackles raise. "How's this for a comeback," I bit out, flipping him off.

"Oh, yes," he said, crossing his arms. "Very mature."

"Fuck you!" I spit out, turning on my heel and walking away.

I sighed as steel-eyes quickly caught up with me, keeping pace with me as I walked. Looking at him out of the corner of my eye, I sped up, then frowned when he stayed right beside me. Holding my case tighter, I walked even faster, but steel-eyes still continued to keep pace. Going even faster, I was nearly jogging, but he was still keeping up.

I suddenly stopped, whirling around to face him.

"Why are you following me?!"

"Well," he said simply. "I wasn't able to collar you for the drug bust, so I'll just have to get you for something else."

"Well," I drawled back, "You're gonna have a hell of a long wait, because I don't do illegal shit."

Small lie. But he didn't need to know that. And, after all this shit, I was strictly on the straight and narrow now. No more "favors" for Tucker.

Right. Yeah. No more.

I continued walking, with no real destination in mind. After a while, I felt my stomach twist, and realized I was starving. Looking over at steel-eyes, I was a little unnerved to find him staring at me.

"What?!" I asked, hugging my case to me.

"Do you actually play that?"

I blinked, looking down at my case. "No," I said sarcastically, giving him a droll look, "I carry around this huge, bulky case as a fashion statement."

"Are you any good at it?" steel-eyes asked, ignoring my sarcasm.

"Well, I better be. After all, I make a living with this thing," I said, absently patting it.

Steel-eyes gave a small hum, then went silent as we continued to walk.

I let my nose lead me, and, pretty soon, we had arrived at one of the sidewalk hot-dog vendors. I got in line, and quickly ordered a nice, big, juicy hot dog smothered in ketchup. As you might have guessed by my choice, I hate relish, mustard, pickles, and onions. They are the banes of my existence!

Okay, not really. But they're pretty disgusting.

"$3.75," the vendor said, holding out his hand for the money.

"He's paying," I muttered around a mouthful of hot dog, jabbing my thumb at steel-eyes and quickly scurrying away towards a nearby park.

I settled on a park bench, setting my case on the ground tucked safely away between my feet, then began to quickly scarf down my food, moaning a little as the juices exploded in my mouth. I felt more than saw steel-eyes sit down beside me, his short, lanky frame stretched out as he sat bonelessly on the bench, his arms and legs splayed.

I finished my hot dog and leaned back on the bench, patting my stomach contently and sighing. "Ah, that hit the spot."

"How often do you eat?"

I turned my head and blinked at steel-eyes, giving him a questioning look. "Why the fuck do you care? In fact, why the hell are you still following me? I doubt a cop like you has enough time to waste following a homeless kid like me."

"I'm doing this for a purely ethical reason."

"Oh?" I asked when he failed to elaborate. "And that is...?"

"I can't let you go out and commit another crime."

I sighed, grabbing my case and standing up. "I didn't commit any crimes. I have not committed any crimes. I will not commit any crimes. I'm simply a homeless boy--with a concussion, I might add, no thanks to you," I accused, pointing at my still bandaged head, "--who plays his saxophone for a measly amount of money. That's all."

When steel-eyes remained silent, I shook my head, giving a disgusted groan. Turning my back on him, I began walking, deciding to head to a nice hidey-hole I knew of and sleep the rest of the day off.

"You skipped out on your hospital bill."

I froze, in the process of walking away, my back automatically tensing at steel-eyes' words. "Are you gonna arrest me?" I asked carefully.

When he remained silent, I turned back to him to find him studying me. "No," he said after a lengthy pause. "I want to catch you for something bigger than skipping on a bill."

I blinked at him, then opened my mouth, but failed to think of a reply. Closing my mouth, I sighed, then continued walking away.


I paused as steel-eyes yelled at me.

"What's your name?"

Without turning around, I simply tossed out a careless, "Don't have one."

Then, with a smirk on my face, I left that steel-eyed man sitting on a bench in a small park, believing I'd never see him again.

Boy, I didn't know how wrong I was.