Sustain, p.1
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       Sustain, p.1

          
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  Breathe, little girl.

  I could hear my mother’s voice as she whispered into my ear again. Plates had been shattered. The kitchen table was flipped upside down. Doors were ripped off their hinges. With each crash and roar coming from the other room, my little fingers had dug into her arm. That was the night he left.

  I thought nothing could get worse for us.

  I was staring down the barrel of a gun now.

  I’d been wrong.

  They came in when we were sleeping. They were silent until our bedroom door was kicked open, and a loud male voice shouted, “Police! Police! We have a search warrant!” They flooded into the room. It felt like a stampede was entering, as the floorboards jostled and the bed shook. I sat up, dazed, but Elijah was already up. He kicked off the bed sheets, grabbed his jeans, and ran to the window. “Freeze! Stop right there and let me see your hands. Freeze!”

  A strong hand grabbed my arm, and I was yanked upright. I soared through the air and hit against the far wall. It all happened in the blink of an eye.

  Thud.

  I can’t believe this is happening, I thought while in the air, right before I crashed into the wall with that thud. Elijah and I had been at a rave three hours earlier. The night had been filled with techno music, neon lights, and sweat that came from too much dancing, too much sex, and too much fun. And now this—I wanted to curse. I wasn’t dumb. What was happening before my eyes brought back all my brother’s warnings.

  “He sells drugs, Bri.”

  Braden had been so sure. I had been sure he was wrong. I had laughed at him and walked away, shaking my head, but a part of me had wondered. The money I found in boxes and bags that were stuffed everywhere. The chest he kept a lock on and refused to tell me what was inside. The nightly visits from people who were never allowed inside the house. After the first few fights, I stopped asking, because the truth was, I didn’t want to know.

  Living in Grant West allowed me to live in that denial. Our town wasn’t a large city, but we had a large university and two technical colleges. The population swarmed tenfold during the school months, and because of all the newbies in town, the locals formed a tight unit. Sometimes they mixed with us. That was inevitable, especially at bars and sporting events. We tried not to associate with outsiders, but I knew one person that did. Elijah. All those college parties he dragged me to, only to disappear as soon as we walked through the door—those college students were his customers.

  I groaned.

  Idiot!

  I was pulled from my thoughts when the cop pushed me face-first into the wall. He kicked my legs open, wrenched my arms behind my back, and slapped handcuffs onto my wrists. I winced as the cold metal cut into my skin, but ignored the pain and twisted my head to the window to see Elijah on the window frame, poised to jump.

  The cop closest to Elijah yelled, “Elijah Turner, get on the floor!” Elijah stopped and spun around to face the room. His crystal green eyes jerked to mine, and his shoulders heaved up and down. The scratch marks I had left a few hours ago stretched with each breath he took.

  So much passed between us in that look.

  He had lied to me, but I had let him.

  Everything was tuned out. The police were still yelling for him to stand down. Their guns remained aimed right at him, but he was looking at me.

  He had lied to me. We were over, repeated in my mind over and over again.

  Then I saw a shift in him. An apology flashed in his gaze, and I knew he was going to jump. I twisted in his direction. “No!”

  The officer slammed me back into the wall. “Stay.” His knee pressed into the back of my thigh, holding me in place, and he pushed down on my handcuffs, making them bite into my wrists, but I didn’t feel it.

  Please don’t, Elijah, I silently pleaded with him.

  He read my unspoken message and took a deep breath in resignation. He was going to surrender. Relief flared through me. I was pissed at him, but jumping would have made things worse. I still cared about him.

  The police sensed the shift in him and moved in. They dragged him from the window, pushed him to his knees, and handcuffed him. Once he was in custody, they took him first, leading him out the door. I was next. A female officer took my arm and led me out of the bedroom, into another room. As they did, I could hear drawers, boxes, and books being dumped onto the floor from Elijah’s room.

  The officer searched me. My clothes were brought in, and she searched them, too. She went through the pockets of my jeans, checked my shirt and my bra before tossing it to the guy in charge of me. My flip-flops were next. The bottoms were inspected. They were looking for a secret compartment in anything. When nothing was found, she returned my clothes, and I was allowed to re-dress.

  When I was taken out, I saw police officers searching all over—other rooms, the bathrooms, and the living room. Even the stair rails. Someone tossed my bag to the female holding my arm. It was unzipped, and the front pockets were pulled out; they had searched it. Another cop came over to us with my wallet. I watched her rifle through everything before she pushed it into the main compartment of my bag and zipped it back up. She said to the cop, “That’s hers. She might need it.” She met my gaze then. “We took your phone. It might have evidence on it.”

  I hissed as I was yanked forward again. That was my phone, dammit.

  Looking around for Elijah, I saw him in the second cruiser parked outside. When he turned to me, I pulled my gaze away. This was his fault. I had heard the rumors, but I had trusted him. I turned my back on a lot of people because I chose to believe my boyfriend. Elijah had never lied to me before, but this was one big-ass lie.

  The cop led me to a different cruiser, and I was pushed into the backseat. Her hand covered my head until I cleared the door. Once inside, she popped into the front seat and turned up the heat. It was then that I realized how cold it was. The clock on her dashboard said it was 4:17 a.m., cold for the little clothing I was wearing. She didn’t say anything before she left again, shutting her door, and I was alone.

  I was numb.

  I was shocked.

  I was livid.

  I kept playing out the image of the cops bursting through the door. Elijah. This was his fault. No, it was mine. I should’ve listened to my brother. No. I was going back to my boyfriend. This was all his fault. Well. Check that. Ex-boyfriend now.

  Hell. I was tired, too—tired and wired at the same time. My chest was moving up and down at a rapid pace. My skin was crawling, but I wanted to curl under a blanket at the same time. I understood why criminals looked crazy on those cop shows, if this was what they were feeling.

  Then the cop came back and got inside. “Your name is Brielle Masterson?”

  She was cold and brisk. Well, whatever. I watched those shows, too. I knew to keep my mouth shut. Plus, even though I was pissed at Elijah, I wasn’t exactly being flooded with warm feelings for these officers. It was dumb and immature, but I kept my mouth closed. That was my middle finger to her.

  She turned around to face me and held up a file. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t tell us. We know who you are.”

  How?

  She arched an eyebrow. “We have your phone, Brielle.”

  Oh. Well. Color me foolish, except—gritting my teeth—I still didn’t care.

  The officer added, “Do you have any idea why we’re arresting you and Mr. Turner?”

  I said nothing. I could be stubborn. My brother would testify to that. I wasn’t guilty of anything, so I wasn’t worried, or I didn’t think I should be worried. The cop kept talking, but I tuned her out and caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. I was surprised at the hard mask looking back at me. My face looked etched in stone, but there was anger boiling under the surface. Damn straight. Thanks a lot, Elijah. Wrinkling my nose, my dark hair was a mess. I hadn’t showered since the day before, so it was greasy. I reached up to smooth my hair out, at least to look a little presentable, but it was pointless. My hair had a mind of its own.

  The cop was watching me with narrowed eyes. When I saw that, I turned away, and my chin rose in defiance. She sighed. I caught movement from the corner of my eye as she put the file down on the passenger seat. “Look,” she started, “I don’t know your full story. You have a juvie record, I see. Some fights when you were younger. It says you took on a group of girls. Another time you assaulted your boss at Dairy Queen.”

  I snorted. The pervert thought breasts were on the menu…my breasts.

  She kept going, “You are going to be processed, and you’ll be booked. You don’t have any drug-related charges. I’d hate for this to be your first one. If you cooperate, you can make it all go away.”

  My gaze jerked to hers.

  “Tell us what you know about Elijah’s drug circuit.” She smiled at me, though her eyes remained flat. Her tone sounded so friendly. I rolled my eyes. I grew up being poor. My mom worked the night shift, so it was Braden and myself. Our dad left when we were six, and we had to learn to fend for ourselves. We fed ourselves. We dressed ourselves. We figured out what things we needed for school. Mom tried, but she was usually a zombie. I wasn’t an idiot, and this cop wasn’t going to fool me otherwise.

  She was saying, “…the more you help us, the more we can help you.”

  I slumped down in the seat and took a deep breath. It wasn’t going to happen. I was now in a waiting game. Glancing out the window, I wondered how long this would take. Braden’s band played at Rowdy’s last night, so that meant they might still be there. Even if it was another hour from now, they could still be in the basement. It was where they practiced, but it was where they partied, too. I’d try Rowdy’s number when I was released. Because, you know, they’d have to release me if I wasn’t guilty.

  “Fine.” The cop held up her hand in surrender. She turned back around to face the front. “I hope you’re ready for this. You’re going to be interrogated just like every other criminal we arrest.”

  Except I wasn’t a criminal. They’d figure that out sooner or later. As she pulled out onto the street, I closed my eyes to try to get some sleep, or at least to calm down more. My heart was still racing. When we got to the police station, the wired feeling was fading, and the exhaustion was taking over. When I was taken into an interrogation room, I eyed the table and had visions of just lying on top of it and going to sleep.

  “How long have you been dating Elijah Turner?”

  Instead, this was what I got.

  “Do you sell drugs for him?”

  No answer.

  “We know you graduated two years ago, but we know he’s got students from the high school selling for him. Is that what you do? Do you recruit students at your old high school?” She laid a file onto the table.

  I closed my eyes. The questions were giving me answers, not the other way around.

  “There are witness accounts placing you and Elijah at a rave last night. Drugs were sold at that rave. Your boyfriend’s drugs. If you were a part of it, come clean now. Brielle.” She gentled her tone. I opened my eyes to see a soft grin on her face. “We know a rival organization is moving in. Are you helping both sides?”

  What was she talking about? I wanted to ask. No, I wanted to demand.

  She leaned across the table toward me. “The time for you to start talking is ending. We have people talking. Don’t think we don’t. They are going to name you as an accessory to this whole thing. We can protect you, Brielle, if you help us. We can keep you safe. Elijah will have no idea you were a part of this.”

  I wanted to flip the table over. Then I wanted to leap over it and run out of there. Instead, I took a deep breath and hunched further down in my seat. She was going to keep talking, no matter what she threatened.

  “Oh.” She started laughing, stood up, and walked in a small circle. “Do you want a lawyer? You think your mom can pay for one? I read your file. Your whole history is in there. Your daddy left when you were little. Your mom’s working two jobs. You didn’t go to college. How come? My guess is that you stuck around to help your mom?” She opened a folder and skimmed her hand down it, stopping in the middle. “It says you work at the nursing home, but you quit recently. Is that what you’re going to do all your life? Are you going to get another job?”

  “How is that any of your business?”

  “You make shit money. With what we have on you, a public defender won’t get you off. You’re looking at jail time, Brielle. Jail.”

  I wanted to laugh at her. For what? For picking the wrong guy and ignoring my brother’s warnings? Yes. If that was a crime, take me away, Officer.

  Someone knocked briefly on the door, and a new guy came inside. Looking in his older thirties with his blond hair combed back, he was dressed in jeans and a shirt. He was also wearing a GWPD vest. After he nodded to the woman, she left and he turned to stare at me. Nothing was said for a minute, and then he slowly sat down in the chair across from me and folded his hands together, resting them on the table between us. “My name is Detective Williams, and I am here to tell you what we know. You can decide whether or not you want to participate in this investigation or not. Now.” He leaned back in his chair. With one finger, he slid a picture across the table toward me. “That’s a picture of a girl that overdosed at a rave last night. What Officer Sonya said is true. We do know you and Elijah were there, but we can’t connect you to the girl. However, we do know that your boyfriend oversees Grant West. Someone else runs Grant East. Are they the ones moving in? Wait, that’s another discussion if you decide to help us. We don’t know if you’re a part of it, and because of that, yes, you will be released in a moment.”

  My head perked up.

  He shook his. “I want you to know everything before you leave, so sit back. We would like you to help us, and we can hold you a whole hell of a lot longer without officially arresting you if we need to. But we’re not going to do that as a sign of good faith. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I have a feeling you won’t be able to not help when we’re done.”

  That was stupid of him. I leaned back in my chair and settled in. No matter what he said, I wasn’t a narc. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

  His eyebrows moved forward before flattening back into place. “Why do you ask?”

  “You recently moved here?”

  He didn’t reply, but he didn’t need to. His mouth flattened. “I don’t know what that has to do with this, but here are the facts. A girl overdosed. She is in the hospital, and she may never wake up.” He pointed to the picture. “Do you know this girl? Did your boyfriend sell drugs to her?”

  I didn’t know her, and I had no idea if Elijah did or not. Until this morning, I hadn’t even wanted to admit he was a drug dealer.

  I remained silent, and after another two minutes passed in silence, he stood up and a disgruntled sound came from him. It sounded like a groan mixed with a gurgling bark. “Fine. We have nothing to hold you. Elijah has been adamant that you have no part of his organization. He’s insisting we release you before he will comply, so with that said, you are free to go.”

  I shoved my chair back and stood. “Can I get my phone?”

  “No. That stays with us.”

  “I thought you said you were letting me go?”

  “You’re the girlfriend of a known drug dealer. We have every indication that he might’ve used your phone to set up deals. Your phone stays with us.”

  They think he used me? Used my phone? My jaw squared, and I stalked down the hallway. Leaving didn’t take long. They never fingerprinted me. No paperwork had been filed so the only thing I waited for was my bag. As the cop moved to hand it to me, he held it a moment. I glanced up to see him staring at me. It wasn’t a crude stare—not like a lot of the guys in school or Elijah’s friends. It was in a way that my mom used to look at me. His eyebrow raised as he said, “Dump the bad boy. He’s not worth it, and in the end, he’ll just take you down with him.”

  He let go of my bag.

  “Thanks,” I muttered under my breath, pulling my bag on my shoulder as I headed to the front of the station. Little did they know it was already over. I was an idiot, but I was a single idiot now. Then I stopped and turned back to the clerk. “Can I use your phone?”

  “What number?”

  Oh, this would not make me look good. “Rowdy’s.”

  His nostrils flared.

  “Just call. My brother’s band practices in the basement. They’ll still be there. They’ll answer.”

  He did and it wasn’t long before I heard someone answer. He straightened and his hand scratched the back of his head. “Yeah, hello. This is Officer Malley. I’ve got a…” He paused and held the phone against his chest. “What’s your name?”

  “Bri.”

  He held the phone to his ear again and continued to frown at me. “A Bri here. She reassures me that her brother’s band uses your basement to practice…” He stopped, and after another moment, he nodded and hung up. “The owner’s sending someone to pick you up.”

  I nodded and headed outside to wait. I didn’t want to stay in
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