Click here to read chapters one through thirteen.
In this chapter. . . somebody stubs their toe. (Okay, it was Sean. And it happens off-screen.)
I read the text out loud for the two of them. “I have Adrien with me. We’re at the parking lot at Walmart. No one else is with us. Come here if you want him back.” I looked up at Sean and Kathy, reading their faces. Neither looked particularly relieved.
“Probably a trap,” said Sean.
“Definitely a trap,” said Kathy. “This the same guy who helped kidnap him a few hours ago, right?”
“Yeah,” I said, remembering the state Adrien was in when I rescued him. “But you don’t know Diesel like I do. He’s not the type of guy to pull this type of stunt on us.”
“Uhuh. You also thought kidnapping your brother and robbing you was beneath him too.”
I could have argued, but instead I picked up the phone and texted him back: (Prove it.) and showed the text to them both. Kathy nodded, satisfied. A minute later, Diesel responded with a picture of him and Adrien—neither looking all that happy—with the Walmart store behind them. I then wrote, “Prove that you’re alone.” To which he responded, “How the hell am I supposed to do that?”
I showed it all to Kathy and Sean. “I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty damn satisfied. “Besides, what else could we do?”
Kathy sighed and gave in, as usual, and the two of us got in her car as Sean agreed to follow behind us. She said, “You owe me money,” after getting on the road.
“Gas. I’ve been driving you around all day. It’s expensive.”
“When I get my money back, I’ll pay.”
Kathy turned the music up and we didn’t talk for a while, which sucked. I preferred fun Kathy, the one I had a few hours ago before all this went down; this version of her was just all types of angst.
I spent most of the car ride looking through some of the many texts from my parents, mostly Mom. “Where are you?” and “Call me back” were said several times, along with a couple threats that had stopped scaring me years ago.
The parking lot was almost empty when we got there. I was able to spot Diesel’s car immediately. “See, he’s alone,” I said to Kathy, who just nodded. He and Adrien were both standing on the concrete and surprisingly, Adrien wasn’t trying to run away or swing his crutches at the guy. He seemed determined, not angry, which was a good look for him.
I left the car, BB gun in hand, and stopped, standing about seven feet away from the two of them. Kathy and Sean were both watching from the side.
“How’d this happen?” I asked, looking at Adrien. Diesel answered for him, not bothering to sugarcoat a thing.
“He swung one of his crutches at Conor, and then somehow figured out that Fiona was behind everything, and so I had no choice but to kidnap him and try to sort everything out.”
“Fiona who?” I only knew one Fiona, and she was at an Extra Help class at the moment. I remembered Sean texting her the whole time at Connor’s house.
“Wilson,” said Adrien. “She organized the whole thing.” He was glaring at Sean, whose face reminded me of a confused dog at the time.
“That doesn’t make sense,” I said, and then it hit me. Something about my earlier conversation with her in the locker room. She was acting strange, sure, but that was normal for her. She always seemed a little strung out. What did seem off, which I should have picked on, were the voices in the background. Most girls didn’t have voices that deep.
“She knew you were going to Connor’s, so she sent me to stop you before you got there,” said Diesel.
“How the hell did she know that?”
Sean coughed behind me and I turned to see him rubbing the back of his neck. It took one look at him to figure out what happened. I asked, “Did you know about any of this?”
“No,” he said. “I just told her we were going to this guy Conner’s house, she said ‘Oh, cool,’ and that was that.” I almost pursued further, but I stopped myself. Sean was always uncomfortable when it came to his relationships; a little weird, considering how open he was about everything else.
I pointed the gun at Diesel, who didn’t even flinch. “You telling the truth?”
“Yes.” He rolled his eyes. “And I know that’s a fake gun.”
“It’s not fake.”
“Why’s there a water bottle attached to it?”
“It’s a silencer.”
“That wouldn’t work on a real gun.”
“Okay, Mr. Expert McWise Fella.” I put it down, at my side, and turned towards Sean. “You wanna call Fiona? See what she’s up to?” Her involvement changed everything.
“No, don’t.” Diesel walked over to me. I noticed Kathy walked over too, giving Diesel the death stare. “You don’t want to let her know that we know.”
“She already knows that I know,” said Adrien.
“Yeah, but right now she thinks I’m driving you back to her house, where she and James will do whatever they can to keep you quiet. And she doesn’t know about Wyatt. And it’s him she’s worried about.” Adrien flinched as if he’d been slapped after Diesel said this, but he didn’t say anything back.
“What am I supposed to do about this, anyway?” Fiona and I weren’t close, but we had several classes together and for the most part had been on good terms. Even if I stole back everything from her and restarted my business, I’d still have to deal with her every day at school.
“Nothing,” said Diesel. “Just give up and go home. The money’s fake, anyway.”
“You heard me. The money’s counterfeit. Our percentage of it, anyway.”
I almost laughed, but then I saw Adrien’s face and stopped. “You’re lying.”
He shook his head. “I’m serious.”
“That’s not possible. You’ve been giving me money, since, what, almost a year now?”
“It wasn’t always fake. That was just until James got involved. No one actually wanted to pay commission, so he offered to give us—your sellers—the counterfeit money, for free. We all took it, as far as I know. He used this to blackmail us later into helping him and Fiona out.”
“What—where does he even get fake money from?” Kathy asked.
“I don’t know. Ask him. He doesn’t exactly have the best homelife. I’m sure he’s been into illegal shit for a while now. Wyatt, you gotta pick your people better, man.”
Kathy said something else but I couldn’t quite make it out. I stared at Diesel, my vision weirdly blurry, and remembered I had a gun in my hand. A toy gun, sure, but it could still do damage. So I shot Diesel in the chest.
Sean grabbed the gun and took it away from me. I didn’t resist; I just looked at the damage I’d done. Diesel didn’t scream; his shirt wasn’t soaked in blood or anything. But from the way he was clutching his chest you could tell he was in pain.
I was okay with that.
“So you were lying to me this WHOLE TIME?”
“Yes!” He half yelled it. “I’m sorry, okay? But the point is, and I need you to listen now.” He said the next point slowly. “There is no longer any reason for you going on this stupid quest to get you great stupid gum empire back. It was all a lie. Now, all you have to do is have me call Fiona, get Adrien on the line, and have him promise her he’ll be silent and that he won’t tell Wyatt about her involvement. Then we could all go home, put this all behind us and live happily ever after.”
He was right. I knew it, but every single part of me rejected the idea. “I still don’t believe the whole counterfeit thing. It’s a bit far-fetched, really.”
“Haven’t you ever put money in a vending machine and it wouldn’t take it?”
“Who hasn’t that happened to?” It did seem to happen to me a lot. That still didn’t mean it was counterfeit. “I’ve mostly been saving it all up.”
“Well,” he shrugged. “You don’t have to believe me, I just want to be done with this. It’s exhausting.”
“It is exhausting,” said Kathy, who no longer seemed to regard Diesel with extreme disapproval. “This whole thing is pointless.” I looked at her, and for the first time I found myself considering how much trouble I’ve put the both of them—Adrien and Kathy both. Adrien was kidnapped and beaten up on what was supposed to be a normal day, and Kathy had to constantly drive me around and lie to the police for my benefit, and I had done nothing so far to thank her.
“Fine,” I said, reluctantly. “I give up. Let’s do the phone call.”
Kathy smiled and Diesel let out an exaggerated sigh of relief. It was over.
That was, until Adrien cleared his throat.
We all looked towards him for the first time in a while. “I love how not a single one of you asked it I wanted to go along with this,” he said. “I’m going to be on crutches for the next few weeks because of these people, and now there’s actually a chance of me getting in legal trouble for this. I am not okay with a fucking peace offer.”
Sorry, but there will no longer be polls from this point on. To make up for this, here is a picture of a cat.
Wait, that’s not a cat.
Merry Christmas, everyone.