Cal dropped Angel off and headed home, keeping an eye out for the black SUVs. He wouldn’t fare so well on his scooter if they decided to run into him.
He got home without incident.
“Where have you been?” his mom asked as he passed the living room.
He stopped and peeked in. She was sitting with a book in her lap.
“School was out over two hours ago,” she said. “You’re supposed to come straight home.”
“Oscar was in an accident, mom,” Cal said. “We went to check on him.”
She sat forward, a worried look crossing her face.
“Is he okay?” she asked.
“I think so,” Cal said. “He’s got a broken arm, and his face is a little messed up, but he seems pretty good. A little out of it, though.”
“What happened?” she asked.
Cal hesitated, weighing what he knew happened, and what Oscar and his mom, and probably the rest of the world, thought happened.
“It’s not clear,” he said. “He hit a guard rail.”
His mom frowned.
“He just ran into one?” she asked.
“I guess.” Cal shrugged. “He must have lost control of his car or something.”
“That doesn’t sound like Oscar,” she said. “He’s such a careful kid.”
“Yeah, I know,” Cal said. “It doesn’t make sense to me either.”
His mom’s sixth sense was going off. She didn’t seem to be buying his story. He could see it as she looked at him, measuring him. She could smell the lie.
“What?” he asked.
“Who’s ‘we’?” she asked.
Cal shook his head in confusion.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“You said ‘we went to Oscar’s house’. Who’s ‘we’?”
“Angel and me,” Cal said, mentally preparing for trouble. “She’s Oscar’s friend too.”
His mother was silent, she just nodded her head.
“Come in and sit down,” she said, nodding towards the couch.
She closed her book and put it on the end table. That was a bad sign. She was preparing for a long talk.
Cal sat down with a sigh, just wanting this to be over with already.
“What?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he responded.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me and say it’s nothing,” she said. “What’s going on with you?”
“I just don’t want to talk about this,” Cal said, feeling an anger growing inside.
“About Angel,” he said. He could hear the anger in his voice, but he didn’t care. “About Oscar. About the FBI. About school. About anything.”
She nodded and gave a look of understanding, but how could she understand? She didn’t know half of what was going on, and the parts that Cal did tell her about she didn’t believe.
“Cal,” she said. She was trying to be soothing, but it was coming across as condescending.
“I need to know what’s going on,” she said. “I heard from your school that you’ve had some more tardies and absences. That isn’t like you.”
“Did they tell you that most of those were from being pulled over by a sheriff for no reason?” Cal fired back.
“Sheriffs don’t pull you over for no reason, honey,” she said.
“He pulled us over because he said we were on a ‘hit list’,” Cal said. “Everybody’s got this idea that we’re some kind of juvenile delinquents.” Cal’s voice was getting louder, his arm movements more exaggerated.
“Oscar got some silly ticket for going like five miles over the speed limit and changing lanes improperly, or something stupid like that,” Cal said. “Totally made up crap.”
She just sat in her chair, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and her chin on fist. It was infuriating.
“We’re not criminals, mom,” he said. “We’re the same kids we were two weeks ago. Nothing has changed.”
“Something’s changed, Cal,” she said. “I just don’t know what.”
Cal sat back on the couch looking at his hands in his lap, avoiding the unasked question.
“You look like you haven’t slept in two weeks,” she said. “That’s for certain.”
He rubbed his hands, still avoiding eye contact.
“If you don’t tell me what’s changed, then I have to guess,” she said.
He looked up at her and shrugged.
“What’s your guess?” he asked.
“The only thing I see that’s changed is the appearance of your new little girlfriend,” she said. “Angel.”
Cal’s defensiveness strengthened.
He started to say something he knew he’d regret and stopped himself, letting it out in a breath. He shook his head and leaned forward, putting his head in his hands and rubbing his temples.
“Do the math, Cal,” she said. “What else has changed? Nothing. You meet this girl, and suddenly we’ve got big problems. And now your friend has been in an accident.”
Cal looked up at her sharply.
“How is Oscar’s accident Angel’s fault?” he asked, and accusation in question form, his anger spiked by the fact that the accident really was related to everything else. Only nobody else knew that.
“It’s just how these things work,” she said. “You start playing around with stuff-”
“Stuff?” Cal asked. “What’s ‘stuff’?”
“I don’t know, Cal, you tell me,” she said. “Drugs? Alcohol?”
Cal growled in frustration.
“No, mom,” he shouted then lowered his voice. “No. The FBI told you that, right?”
She nodded. He noticed her eyes were watering.
“Forget the FBI, mom,” he said. “This is me, Cal. Let’s just talk, just us. Do you really think we’re doing drugs? Does that make any sense to you?”
“Cal, you kids are in a lot of trouble,” she said. She wiped at a tear going down her cheek. “Nothing makes sense to me right now.”
“But mom, you know me,” Cal pleaded. “You know I wouldn’t get mixed up in that stuff.”
“I know you, Cal,” she said. “But I also remember what it’s like to be sixteen.”
“I’m almost seventeen.”
“I remember what it’s like, Cal,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff out there.”
“But I’m still me,” he said.
She was hiding her face in her hand now.
“Mom,” he said.
Her body shook with a few sobs then stopped. She sniffled, then looked up at him.
He felt tears in his own eyes.
“Mom,” he said. “You’re right. We’re in a lot of trouble.”
“But it’s not what you think it is,” he said.
“Then what is it?” she asked.
He stared at her. She wouldn’t believe him. They got to her already.
Besides, if he could convince her of the truth, then she would be in as much danger as he was. He needed some way to get her off his back without involving her.
“It’s not Angel,” he said.
“Then what is it?” she asked again.
She wouldn’t believe him.
They got to her already.
She raised her eyebrows.
“I can’t tell you, mom,” he said finally.
“You can’t tell me,” she repeated. “Well that certainly answers things.” Her sarcasm stung.
“I’m serious, mom,” he said, looking at her. “I can’t.”
“Why not?” It was her turn to yell.
“Because A) You wouldn’t believe me, and B)”, he paused trying to find the right way to say it. “We’re in danger mom. If I could convince you of the truth, you’d be in danger too.”
She frowned at him.
He held a hand up.
“I am not on drugs, I’m not drinking, I haven’t broken any laws,” he said. “But I’m serious about this.”
She shook her head.
“Cal,” she said. “If you’re in trouble, we should talk with Sheriff Bradshaw. Is it the Lemolos?”
“Mom, I can’t,” he said. “I need you to trust me.”
“I want to trust you, Cal,” she said.
“Then trust me, mom.”
She just shook her head.
“What are you worried about?” he asked.
“I don’t want you to do something that you’re going to regret,” she said.
“Can you tell me something specific?” he asked.
“I think this girl, Angel, is a bad influence on you,” she said. “And Oscar.”
“Mom,” he said, frustration growing again. “Angel’s not a bad influence. You’ve never even met her.”
“Then let’s meet,” she said. “Dinner. Tonight? I don’t have to work. I’ll order some pizza for us.”
Cal sat back. This is not the night he wanted to do this.
His mom stared at him. Whatever piece of the war he’d won tonight, he knew he wasn’t winning this particular battle.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll check with her.”
He pulled out his phone.
MOM FREAKING, he texted. WANTS 2 MEET 2NITE. DINNER?
“Done,” he said to his mom.
She nodded and they sat in silence until his phone bleeped again.
GULP, Angel replied. SURE. WHEN?
“When?” he asked his mom.
“We don’t seem to be doing anything right now,” she said.
He looked down at his phone.
NOW? he texted.
They waited in silence again.
OK, Angel responded.
Cal looked up at his mom. He felt crushed between these two worlds colliding. The anxiety of how the night would play out formed a tight knot in his gut.
“Alright,” he said. “I’ll go pick her up.”
“Good,” she said.
They both stood, combatants taking a break between contests.
“I’ll order the pizza,” she said. “And I should probably call Oscar’s mom.”
“Don’t mention any of what we’ve talked about to her,” Cal said.
She started to argue.
“Mom, please. Not until you and I have talked more.”
She sighed, then nodded and left the living room.
Cal grabbed his stuff and went to get Angel.
* * *
Cal was sitting at a stop light, worrying about what was going to happen when he got home with Angel, trying to figure out how to prep Angel so she didn’t say the wrong thing. In the back of his mind he registered the sound of the motorcycle, but he didn’t pay it any attention until it pulled up next to him.
He glanced over at the big bike, the big man on it, the raven patch on the arm of his black leather jacket.
A Lemolo was sitting next to him. He was an older man, heavy set, and unshaven. He wore a helmet that wasn’t much more than a yamilka, and was staring at Cal through dark sunglasses.
“Pull over into that parking lot,” the man said, pointing across the intersection with his chin.
Cal looked at the parking lot. It was a small corner lot with a closed dry cleaner and a little coffee kiosk, also closed.
“Why?” Cal asked, noting that there were no other cars on the road. No people around. No witnesses.
“Because if you don’t, I’ll run you down,” the man said. He revved his engine to drive the point home.
The light turned green.
They both sat at the stop line.
“What’s it going to be, Calvin?” the man asked.
Cal looked forward and nodded. He took off a bit shakily and make a clumsy left hand turn into the parking lot. The man followed, his bike thundering in the quickly fading light of the quiet evening.
* * *
Stan sat in his chair, willing himself to stay awake. The woman was still talking. On and on. The same monotone voice. How does a person like this get into any position of authority? He glanced at others in the meeting, and saw the same masks of boredom.
He was about to interrupt her and spare everybody from further suffering when a spike of pain drove through his right temple. He cringed and tried not to react too strongly. The man to his left looked over and Stan covered his reaction with a cough.
“Excuse me,” he announced to the group, continuing to cough. “Need some water.”
He exited the room and hurried for the bathroom, loosening his tie. He needed some privacy. He slammed the bathroom door open, then locked himself in a stall, cursing. These things never happened when it was convenient.
Bigby was back.
* * *
Cal killed the scooter’s engine and got off of it, keeping it between him and the Lemolo. He started to take his helmet off, but then thought better of it and left it on.
“Relax, kid,” the man said. “I’m not going to hurt you, but we don’t have much time. I need you to listen to me.”
“Take off your glasses,” Cal said, surprised at his bravery.
The man smiled and nodded.
“Smart kid,” he said, removing his sunglasses. He had brown, normal eyes. He wasn’t an agent.
“Good enough?” the man asked.
Cal nodded, and the man put his sunglasses back on.
“They’re already on to me,” the man said. “It won’t be long. Walsh was supposed to contact you, but, well, he bet on the wrong horse.”
“Here,” he said, shoving a small yellow envelope towards Cal.
“You’ve got skin in the game now,” he continued. “That’s everything I’ve got. I hope it helps.”
Cal looked down at the envelope, confused. It looked like a greeting card. The man placed it on the seat of Cal’s scooter.
The man pulled a necklace out from under his shirt. There was a triangular piece on the cord. The man kissed it, then took the necklace off and handed it to Cal.
“Put this on,” the man said. “Never take it off.”
Cal looked at it. There was a Raven’s head on it. He flipped it over to find some writing he couldn’t make out.
“Hey,” the man said, rapping his knuckles on Cal’s helmet. “Don’t screw around. Put it on, it’ll protect you.”
Cal put it on.
“And be careful with that binding,” the man said “They can find you with it.”
“What binding?” Cal asked.
“The coin,” the man said. “From the Tsaitko.”
Cal started to ask the man what he meant by a ‘psycho’, but the man started his motorcycle, filling the parking lot with a roar of thunder.
He kicked the kickstand up and seemed about to leave, then hesitated. He looked over at Cal.
“I’ve done a lot of bad shit in my life, Calvin,” he shouted over the engine. “There’s only one thing I’d change. And I’m not asking for forgiveness, understand that, but I’m going to be dead in a few minutes, and we won’t have this chance to talk again.”
He reached over with a huge hand that encompassed Cal’s entire shoulder.
“Your dad was a good man,” he continued, squeezing Cal’s shoulder lightly. “I’m sorry I killed him.”
He let go of Cal and popped his motorcycle into gear.
Cal’s eyes dropped to the patch on the front of the man’s jacket. It had a rocker over the top that said ‘Big Chief’, and one on the bottom that said ‘Bigby’.
“Bigby?” Cal asked. “But you didn’t kill my dad. Walsh said you were FBI.”
Bigby laughed. It was loud like his motorcycle, and just as menacing.
“I’m about as far from FBI as you can get, son,” he shouted. “It’s just more of their mind games. I think you know by now that you need to be careful about who and what you believe.”
He shook his head and looked around then back to Cal.
“They’re coming,” he shouted. “Be careful who you trust.”
With that, he accelerated away, shooting out of the parking lot into the street, and disappearing up a hill.
Cal stared after him, eyes watering. Cesar Bibgy?
He hopped on his scooter and started it, thinking he could follow Bigby. As he strapped his helmet on he heard sirens. Looking over his shoulder he saw two sheriff’s cars racing from the direction he’d come, they blew through the intersection and sped up the hill. Closely behind them was a black SUV with blue and red lights flashing through the windshield.
Cal sat, frozen, as he watched the SUV disappear over the hill, chasing after Bigby. He could hear the sirens in the distance. He heard tires squeal, then popping sounds.
He shook himself out of his trance. That SUV may be coming back. He had to get Angel and get home.
* * *
Cal’s mind was whirling when he knocked on Angel’s front door. How did Bigby find him, and what happened.
Angel opened the door. She looked generally happy to see him, but there was some tension about her mannerisms.
“Hi,” she said and started to step out.
“Hey,” Cal said, putting a hand out. “Can we go check the news for a bit? Before we go?”
Angel gave him a curious look.
“Sure?” she said, leading him back to the den. “Why?”
“I think they just caught Cesar Bigby,” he said.
“Who’s Cesar Bigby?” she asked, flipping the television on.
“The man who killed my dad.”
“Oh,” Angel said quietly. “Here.” She gave Cal the remote.
They flipped through the local stations, but none were showing news.
Cal turned off the television and put the remote down on the couch.
“What happened?” Angel asked.
Cal told her about his encounter with Bigby.
“What was in the envelope?” she asked.
“I didn’t open it yet,” Cal said, patting the pockets of his jacket.
“No,” he said as he realized the envelope wasn’t in any of his pockets. He hurried out to his scooter with Angel close behind. He searched around the scooter.
“The envelope,” he said, looking up at Angel. “I don’t have it.”
* * *
They followed Cal’s route back, going slow, searching the dark streets for the yellow envelope. They found it in the parking lot where Cal had gotten it from Bigby. It was in a puddle and soaked through.
Cal swore as he picked it up, water dripping out of it.
His phone bleeped.
PZ9A HERE, his mom had texted. WHER ARE YOU?
He swore again and typed out an answer.
ETA 10 MIN, he responded.
“We’ve gotta get out of here,” Cal said getting back on the scooter. “I’m sure the agents saw me sitting here when they came by.”
He started the engine as Angel climbed on behind him. Even her presence, pressing into his back did little to change his mood.
* * *
They got off his scooter and Cal remembered what they were heading into.
“So my mom’s probably going to ask you a ton of questions,” he said quickly, hoping his mom wasn’t watching them from a window.
“Yeah, I figured,” Angel said.
“The agents got to here. She believes you’re the bad influence that’s causing all of the problems.”
He could see Angel wince at the accusation.
“Hey,” he said, putting his hands on her shoulders. “I know you’re not. You know you’re not, but all my mom has is what they’ve told her. I think I got through to her, though. Her one condition on trusting us is that she get to meet you.”
“Great,” Angel said. “Like this isn’t stressful enough.”
“Don’t worry,” Cal said. “You look nice.” For the first time he noticed that she was dressed a bit more conventional than usual. “And you’re a great person. My mom’s going to like you.”
“Once she sees that I’m not some drug-dealing corrupter of Aberdeen’s youth,” Angel said.
Cal wasn’t sure how to respond.
Angel gave him a little smile, and he smiled back.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s right. So leave all of your drugs out here on my scooter.”
Her smile broadened.
“You ready?” he asked.
“Almost,” she said, leaning in to him.
He leaned down and kissed her.
* * *
“Mom?” Cal called as they came into the house.
He heard the television playing in the den and led Angel that way. His mom almost ran into them coming out of the den. She had tears running down her face.
“He just got here,” she said into the phone.
She put the phone down to her chest and hugged Cal.
“They got him,” she said, hugging Cal tight. “They got that bastard.”