“I’ll keep that in mind, big guy. Thank you for making this easy on me. We both know you didn’t have to.” My voice was scratchy and I could feel the tears threatening again because I couldn’t pull my mind away from my legal eagle.
He didn’t reply as he followed me out of the office and back into the mostly empty bar. Church was leaning against the long bar top talking to one of the regular daytime patrons and a bartender I didn’t recognize.
“Where’s your dad?” It took me a minute to realize he was looking around for whoever was supposed to be on Avett babysitting duty for the day.
“I had a meeting at the courthouse about Jared’s trial. I went alone because I wasn’t sure how long it was going to last. He’s at home waiting for me to check in with my mom. I should call them and let them know where I’m at. I need to call a cab and head that way before they worry.”
Rome grunted and crossed his arms over his muscular chest, which was covered in a faded Eagles T-shirt. “It’s slow. I can run you home since Church is here to keep an eye on things.”
I was getting ready to agree when my phone flashed and I saw my dad’s number on the screen. I held up a finger and told Rome to hold on as I put the phone to my ear.
“Hey, Dad. Sorry I didn’t call sooner. That lawyer Jared hired was a real piece of work, a total slimeball. I needed a minute. I’m at the bar with Rome. He offered to run me home.”
“Tell him you have a ride waiting for you outside.” The voice definitely wasn’t my father’s. I didn’t recognize it at all, and before I could ask who in the hell had my dad’s phone the person on the end snapped, “You better make whoever you’re with think everything is okay or your parents are going to experience what it’s like to lose everything from the inside.”
Rome was looking at me curiously, so I forced a shaky smile and took a few steps away from him. I put a hand to my churning stomach and whispered, “I understand.” I had to lock my knees because they felt like they were going to buckle right out from underneath me.
“Do you? To be clear here on what’s going to happen, you’re going to walk out front and get into the black Yukon that’s waiting. You’re going to tell my associates where you stashed the drugs your boyfriend jacked from my boss, and then you are going to take them to the location. If you call the police, if you alert anyone as to what’s going on, this cute little house where you’ve been staying will go up just like the other one did, only this time your parents will be left inside to burn.”
I cleared my throat and looked over my shoulder to see that Church had joined Rome and that both of them were staring at me intently. I shivered and fought to get out quietly enough so that I wasn’t overheard. “How do I know you haven’t hurt my parents already?”
There was some rustling, the sounds of an obvious struggle, and then my dad’s strained voice came on the line. “Don’t you go anywhere with these people, Avett! You hear me! Call the police and keep yourself safe. Do not worry about me …” There was a sickening crunch and a heavy-sounding thud that made me gasp and had me putting my hand up to my mouth.
“If I were you, I would ignore your father’s advice. If the police show, this place goes up like a tinderbox and we’ll go after the lawyer. We want the product. Once we have it, we’ll be on our way. Your freedom and your parents’ safety for our drugs. Seems like an easy decision to make if you ask me.”
Maybe it would be if there were drugs and if I didn’t already know how these men did business. I still had nightmares from my last run-in with them and it looked like this time around a baseball-bat-wielding landlady wasn’t going to be enough to save the day.
“Don’t try and call the lawyer for help either. We have people watching him in case you decide to be difficult. He’s our plan B.”
At the reminder that Quaid was in as much danger as my parents were, I suddenly had an idea. It wasn’t the best plan in the entire world but it was the best I could come up with given the circumstances.
“All right, I’m headed out to the SUV. I’ll give you what you want.”
“See how easy that was? And to think everyone told me you weren’t a smart girl.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and tightened my fingers around the phone. “Not smart enough to keep everyone I love out of another one of my fuckups. I’m leaving now.”
I hung up the phone and whirled on Rome and Church. “I need you guys to head over to my mom’s house. My dad really needs your help with something.”
I felt guilt threaten to choke me as words shot out at them. I couldn’t call the police, but I could send two highly trained former military men to the rescue. I had to do it without alerting them to what was really going on because there was no way they were going to let me out the door if they discerned what was waiting for me on the other side of it.
“Um, yeah, he’s run into a situation and he needs you both there. I have to go back to the courthouse. They have more questions for me. Jared’s attorney even sent a car. I have to go.” I rushed towards the front door with both of them calling my name and moving after me as I did so. I looked over my shoulder and told them, “Also, you need to hurry and don’t try and call him because he won’t be able to answer.”
“What in the actual fuck just happened, Avett?” Rome officially lost his patience and I had to dodge out of the way as he reached for me.
“Go to the house … and you both need to be very, very careful. It’s a bad situation and you’re the only ones that can help him, so promise me you won’t call the police. If you do, his situation is going to go from bad to worse. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?” They both gave me hard looks, accompanied by angry and confused scowls. “When you get there tell him I’m sorry. So sorry.”
I pushed through the door and hit the parking lot at a run with both of them hot on my heels. I saw the big, black SUV idling on the street and made a beeline for it as my heart crawled into my throat. I grabbed the back door handle and looked back at Rome and Church, both of whom had their phones to their ears as they paced the asphalt like uncaged predators. I should’ve known they wouldn’t listen to me after my less than subtle freak-out and all I could do was hope they didn’t call the police before going to check on my dad themselves. As I was getting into the SUV I screamed, “Stay safe!” and hurled myself into the backseat and the unknown. I would never forgive myself if something happened to either of them but I had to do something.