The original crowd, p.11
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       The Original Crowd, p.11

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  swear,” I relented, sighing.

  I saw the quick smile before she blushed and ducked her head.

  Somehow I knew. I didn’t know how. I couldn’t explain it. But I knew if I turned around, Tray would be watching me.

  Turning around, I saw him staring steadily at me.

  “What?”

  “We need to talk,” he spoke, standing up and pulling me out of the classroom with him.

  “Our teacher’s going to be coming pretty soon,” I argued, but followed nonetheless. I knew what this was about: business.

  He leaned against a locker in the empty hallway and regarded me. “Our teacher’s always twenty minutes late. I think we’ll be fine.”

  “You don’t need to get snippy,” I huffed.

  Tray rolled his eyes, his hands stuffed in his pockets. He looked at ease. A casual confidence radiated off of him.

  It irritated me. “So what’d you want to talk to me about?” I asked.

  Tray lifted his eyebrows and remained silent. I saw the amusement in their depths.

  “What?” I asked again.

  He chuckled, leaning to face me. “I didn’t realize till now how much I unnerve you.” He whistled. “You must hate that.”

  I moaned, “You’re a bit too conceited.”

  “You came,” he remarked, smirking.

  I had to take a step back. I was there for business. Business only. The incident with Brian, then saying goodbye to Jace—it must’ve messed me up even more than I wanted to admit for me to have landed in Tray’s bed after the fight with Brian. Right now…I needed to step back. This was just my body remembering the explosive sex. There is no way a relationship with Tray would end well.

  “Business,” I reminded him.

  “Right.” He sighed. “Are you ready for tonight?”

  “Yeah.”

  “When do we get in?”

  “After I have my guy look at the device.”

  “Not before? When will that be?”

  “How many guys you got coming for this?”

  “Enough to get our shit done,” he deadpanned.

  I studied him for a moment. I didn’t know what they really wanted; the PRS-500 could unlock more doors than they even knew existed. I was loathe to give that power to them—there was no way they’d get their hands on it without Geezer working his magic on it first.

  “What are you guys going to do again? I don’t remember.”

  He gave me a faint grin. “Good try. No bulls-eye.”

  “You’re just expecting me to give this to you? To give you free-entry into a school that I used to go to? Where my friends go?”

  “And your ex?” he asked smoothly.

  “This isn’t about him.”

  Tray shifted closer to me, his eyes melting to amber as he whispered, “I kinda like it when he comes into the picture.”

  I held firm.

  As he drew closer, his head bent towards my neck, I felt his lips lightly caressing there, and he breathed, “I’d like another go round.”

  “Mr. Evans! Miss Matthews!”

  Looking up, a bit more dazed than I wanted to admit, I saw our psych teacher hurrying down the hallway, shooing us with her hands. “Get inside. Now,” she cried.

  As we walked inside, the entire class immediately hushed, watching both of us make our way to our seats.

  Molly was in awe. I could tell from the worshipful glaze over her face. Mandy was frowning. Jasmine was glaring. Bryce was just amused, with his head tipped back, a small smile spread on his face.

  Molly leaned close and whispered, “I heard that Carter Sethlers is in town.”

  “Yeah. I guess.”

  “I heard he’s with your sister.”

  “I don’t know,” I whispered back.

  “And I heard that he’s having a party tomorrow night.” The girl was relentless.

  “So?” I asked, scooting my chair aside. Did the girl have a clue what personal boundaries were?

  “Can I come?”

  “You hit me up to set you up with Justin Travers and now you’re trying to get me to take you to Carter’s party? What kind of science nerd are you?”

  She giggled, clamping a hand quickly over her mouth, petrified as some of the students glanced over. “Please,” she whispered around her hand.

  “Why? Why do you want to do this stuff? Be around these people?”

  She gave me a dumb-founded stare. “Because I’m a nerd. I’m socially challenged.”

  “I’m not exactly known as the nice girl from the popular crowd. You know, one of those types that’s popular and incredibly sweet so everyone tries to be friends with her because they think she can make them popular. That’s not me.”

  “Exactly,” Molly pointed out.

  “What happened to you being pissed at me?” I moaned.

  “You were right about Justin. I’ll always think he’s the hottest thing here, but…I don’t know.” She shrugged, ducking her head, flushing. “I just…I’d like to tell my mom that I went to one party this year. One of those that she’ll freak out about and forbid me to go to.”

  “And there are reasons why you should be forbidden from going to those types of parties.” I reasoned.

  “You could watch out for me.”

  I was about to say I wasn’t going, but remembered I had already told Mandy I would—out of guilt. Damn.

  “And what if I’m too busy? What if I’m going to hook up with a guy?”

  Molly looked indignant as she pushed her glasses back on her nose. “You don’t strike me as that type of girl.”

  “Look, I’ll let you know tomorrow.” I glanced away, uncomfortable.

  Mandy wants me to have friends. I can have friends. Just not…her friends.

  After the bell rang, I made my way to my locker, evading most of the hallway rush. I probably would’ve made it to my car without speaking to anyone, if that one guy hadn’t stopped me outside on the front lawn. The guy who’d told me I was inhumane.

  “Hey, bitch,” he called out, loping across the lawn towards me.

  I took a harder look at him this time. He’d called me inhumane our first meeting, glared at me the next day, and now he’d called me a bitch. Again. I eyed him up and down and saw nothing significant about him—he was skinny, had shaggy hair, and he looked almost bug eyed (I’ll give him credit though, they were a startling green color that demanded more than one look at them).

  I smirked, waiting to hear what he had to say.

  Drawing closer, he said, “I heard what you did.”

  I was starting to think back to what he could be talking about…what hadn’t I done? Seriously. Why did everyone have to care so goddamn much about what I did or did not do or who I did or did not do?

  “And what was that?” I drawled out.

  “Travers and that slut Klinnleys.”

  “So what? Was that inhumane too?”

  “No way. That was awesome!”

  This guy was killing me.

  “Is there a reason why you feel you have the right to continuously interrupt my peaceful walk, three times in a row, and claim your judgment on my behavior?” I bit out. “Because if I made you my judge and jury in some prior life, I’d really like to know so I can correct my stupidity—somehow in this life!”

  “Hey, dude, I’m just saying that I was wrong. You’re my personal hero. I’ve been wanting to take Travers down a notch ever since freshman year.”

  “Oh. A whole five months, huh?” I snapped.

  “Whatever.” He shrugged. “You might want to think about changing your script. All you do is be a bitch followed by being a bitch and then serve a dessert portion of…being a bitch.”

  “Yeah, well, it’s worked for me so far.”

  “Doesn’t seem like it. You’re the one pissed off right now and me,” he grinned, backing away, “I’m peachy. Travers got taken down. You made my year.”

  “Hey,” I stopped him as he was turning around, “what’s your name?”
r />   “Me?” he asked, surprised.

  “Yeah. Your name. What is it?”

  “Garrett Larkins.”

  “You want to go to a party tomorrow night?” I couldn’t believe I was doing this, but I already started it.

  “Seriously?” He didn’t even ask which one.

  “Yeah.”

  “Sure,” he rushed out, smiling widely.

  “Fine. Find me after school tomorrow.”

  I watched him a second later, noticing that he had run over to a group of kids playing hackey-sack. It reminded me of Geezer and Grayley. They used to play that game too.

  I crossed the street to my car. I’d taken to parking on the opposite side of campus where the parking lot was placed. It was just easier to avoid drama, but, apparently, drama like to single me out because I saw Tray leaning against my car door. His SUV parked just behind, with some of his friends. Mitch and some others that I recognized from the basketball team.

  “Hey,” I murmured as I pulled my keys out.

  He didn’t move, but reached to tip my head up as my arms moved to unlock the door, bringing me in contact with his body. “What’s the plan tonight?”

  I shrugged off his touch. “I’ll call you when I have the device.”

  “And when will that be? Like an approximate time.”

  “I don’t know. Nine? Ten?”

  “You can’t be any more definite? It’s not like we have all the time in the world. We’re going to be sitting around, planning on doing something pretty illegal, and you just expect us to sit around on our hands? What are we supposed to do? Twiddle our thumbs?”

  Whoa. Evans was mad. Actually, inspecting him closer, I realized he was beyond pissed.

  “What are you so pissed about?” I didn’t even know if I should ask, but it was already out of my mouth. “This was the deal. I go in, get the device and hand it over to my guy. You get it afterwards.”

  “It’s not good enough. We could get caught.”

  “And so could I!” I cried, now getting pissed in my own right. “What do you want? I’m not giving you a time-schedule for when I commit my crime. Is that what you want? Got a nice little deal worked out with the cops? You doing this to catch me?”

  “Oh please,” he groaned.

  “Are you? Because I’m starting to think that’s what’s going on,” I said tightly.

  “Just get your end done and call me,” he said stiffly, pushing off my car and striding to his own. Climbing in, one of the guys smirked at me as Tray gunned the engine and peeled out into traffic.

  He was infuriating.

  *

  This was my moment. This was my element. Standing atop the roof of my old school, the black night as my backdrop, the wind rushing behind me, I closed my eyes for a moment just enjoying the feeling. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I don’t know what it was, or how I could describe it, but even the hairs on my fingers were vibrating. I felt so alive.

  The drive to Pedlam had been uneventful. Grayley had called and said he had Geezer, sober and on standby. Everything was ready and in place. I had memorized the blueprints and alarm time schedules from the info Grayley had gotten me. He, Geezer, and I had been a team, before I moved to Rawley. Brian had always wanted to be included, but I never let him. Grayley and Geezer were steady; Brian and I were just volatile together. With Grayley and Geezer, there was no drama, they did the job and followed through. I knew I could depend on them, even if they were pissed off or high.

  But right now—this was the part where it was just me.

  The PRS-500 was nicely tucked away t in the superintendent’s locked cabinet, in a locked drawer, behind, of course, his locked office door. His office was situated just inside the main office, which was behind another locked door. Not too hard for me to get to, but not the easiest either.

  What was new, since I’d been gone, was a twenty-four seven shift of security guards. This made me wonder what else was inside this building that would need to be guarded around the clock. Obviously, the first thing I needed to take care of was the guards.

  So this brings me to where exactly I was standing, or who exactly I was standing above—the guard’s office. I knelt at the venting shaft and unscrewed it, slipping inside, with the rope around my waist already secured around a handle outside the shaft. This venting system was different from Rawley because it dipped down, straight down so you aren’t able to just find your footing easily, so I had to rappel downwards, counting the distance inch by inch until I felt the ground beneath me.

  I had counted a good sixteen feet, which coincided with the blueprints Grayley had gotten for me.

  Finding the hatch just to the left of my feet, I unscrewed it and lifted it up. Beneath me, I could hear sounds from a basketball game. Guessing the guards were watching ESPN, I slipped through. I could see them through the door; there were three of them, all sitting with their backs to me, feet propped up on the camera panel. Two of the video screens were on a rotating schedule covering different areas throughout the school. There was one on top that focused only on the main office. And the screen in the middle—ESPN. It wasn’t basketball though. Anaheim was losing by two goals.

  Seriously. What were they keeping in a school that needed three security guards? Whatever happened to nice locked doors?

  I needed to move on. I could get inside without the guards seeing me, but Tray wouldn’t be able to.

  I slipped past them, moving down the hallway, pausing at each corner before I slipped my mirror around, checking if a camera was up ahead or not. I’d watched the rotation schedule enough to memorize most of the areas, but it didn’t hurt to be sure.

  Arriving on the second floor, I slipped through the men’s bathroom and opened the vent. Pulling myself up, I crawled inside, following it for a count of sixty. I could measure distance by my counts. It was an old system I had down pat.

  According to my estimation, I should be just overhead the principal’s office. The superintendent’s office didn’t have a normal size venting shaft over his office. He used one of those tapered off vents, making it impossible for any good-intentioned thief, such as myself, to climb in and out. Pulling through, I stood atop the desk and smoothly moved to the door. From what I saw on the security camera, there was only a slight angle that covered the superintendent’s office door, but it was enough of an opening.

  Gritting my teeth, I moved quickly and plastered my body as much as I could against the wall while I worked on the door. I used a Wesson steel wire point and jerked upwards with another ballpoint blade. Hearing the door click open, I pushed inside, keeping my head turned away from the camera and shut the door, but not letting it click shut. Moving to the closet, I quickly moved through that locked door.

  The cabinet drawer was another challenge in itself. It was keypad lock. Grabbing my ballpoint blade, I worked it underneath the covering panel, dipped inside, and pulled out the black alarm wire. I clipped the wire onto a seventy-three delay wire that I had in my pack and ran it around to the base, as close to it as I could, to place it against the wire just inside the cabinet panel. Then, holding my breath, I made sure the delay wire was in place and clipped the wire close to the base.

  And the cabinet lock clicked open with the keypad still showing green. The delay wire had worked wonderfully.

  Inside lay the PRS-500. Grabbing it, I sheathed it inside a pack I had clipped around my back, zipping the device just inside the small of my back. My job was almost done.

  Shutting the cabinet lock, I unclipped my delay wire and pocketed it quickly. Then I closed the closet door. Slipping out through the office door, I still didn’t pull the door completely shut, I closed it just enough so it looked shut from the camera angle. Keeping my head turned away, I entered the principal’s
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