The original crowd, p.12
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       The Original Crowd, p.12

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  office and hoisted myself up through the venting shaft again. I crawled, finding myself outside the security room once again and back up through the hatch. Feeling around the dark, I found my rope and clipped it back on me, then I started hoisting myself back up, pulling the rope back through my karabiner on my waist.

  It took longer, but I was back on the roof and screwing the venting shaft in place once again. Then I slipped into the darkness.

  I couldn’t stop the grin that spread across my face.

  CHAPTER FOUR

  I found Grayley and Geezer up ahead where they’d parked around a small group of trees. It was where we always parked if we wanted to get high, skip class, or have sex—sometimes all three of them together. It was our little hideaway, which made me smile as I approached the car from behind, through the trees.

  “Hey guys,” I said softly, directly behind them.

  Geezer jumped.

  Grayley let loose whatever had been in his hands.

  And I laughed. I couldn’t help myself.

  “Taryn! Holy fuck’s sake,” Grayley gasped, scowling at me.

  Geezer was too busy checking me out. “Looking good, Tartar.” He whistled.

  I didn’t have it in me to blush. I was decked out in all black. It wasn’t nylon, but a fabric that was somewhat in the middle between cotton and nylon. It was glued on me, but it was what I needed for my jobs. I’d already ditched my little theft kit in the car, so they didn’t get the somewhat dorky look of a little pack hanging around my waist, complete with bungee cord karabiners, ropes, and everything else I needed. All of that needed to be locked tight on me, to save me from making any extra sound. You never knew what you would run into on a job and I liked to be prepared. The only thing I had with me, other than my car keys, and the PRS-500 was my bottle of chloroform. And I wasn’t planning on using it.

  But I knew the image I made. I’d let my hair down so it shook free around my shoulders.

  “You too, Geezer. I especially like the sober look. It’s got a certain…mystery…about you.” I nudged him with my hip.

  He blushed. He never failed to blush from any teasing or from any sort of compliment. It was endearing to watch and I loved seeing that he still did it. Apparently that hadn’t changed.

  “Hey, not to be an ass or…well…we kind of have some stuff to take care of tonight, so can we hurry this along?” Grayley asked, running a hand through his gelled back hair.

  I grinned. “Yeah. I’m sure Geezer’s got a lot of plans tonight.”

  “Whatever,” Grayley commented, hunching over as he leaned against his truck.

  I handed the PRS-500 to Geezer and gave him my instructions. He climbed inside the truck to use the light for his work.

  Studying Grayley, I commented, “You look more preppy than when I left. If I were to notice things like that.”

  “Preppy?” he asked, surprised at my comment.

  “Yeah. Someone who’d hang out with Gentley.”

  “You mean someone who’d like to stay alive and therefore needs to avoid Brian at all costs? If that’s preppy, keeping my neck screwed on, then yeah—I’m preppier. God—if that’s even a word, Taryn.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “Look, I don’t know what happened between you and Brian, but he’s been a loose cannon this week. I heard that he and Jace had a huge brawl the other night. They both had to go to the hospital and now Brian’s been off—doing who the hell knows what. He’s dangerous, Taryn and I think you set him off.”

  “He bothering you at all?”

  “No. Not yet. But I’ve no doubt he’s just making his rounds. He roughed up Kerri before his fight with Jace.”

  “Kerri? Is she okay?”

  Kerri and I had been on okay terms. She was one of those girls that was just on the scene and sort of just ended up being accepted in the group. She was just there, you know. I know she’d slept with Geezer a few times. But, one time she’d helped me out with something and ever since then I had grown a soft spot for her. Still…we weren’t exactly best buds.

  “I think so. Still, it’s Kerri. He roughed her up. A girl, Taryn. I didn’t know he had it in him—”

  I snorted.

  He amended, “Okay. I did know, but he’s just scary now. He’s not stable.”

  “Well, we’re over.”

  “I know you are.”

  We fell silent. What else could really be said on that topic.

  “So, you’re with Gentley’s crew now?” I asked.

  “I guess. I’m not with Brian anymore. That’s for damn sure.”

  “Still. Gentley?” I asked scornfully.

  “Yeah.” He sighed. “School’s not the same. It’s not…I don’t know.”

  “It can’t be that different. I mean it’s just a school.”

  “Bri’s off his rocker. I heard that the school got a restraining order on him.”

  “All that happened within one week?”

  “Most of it’s just rumors,” he murmured, jumping to sit on the back of his cab.

  Anything else we would have said was interrupted as Geezer slammed his door shut. Brandishing the PRS-500, he exclaimed, “Alrighty, tighty. It’s programmed how you want it. Those suckers won’t get through my fire walls. If they do, I want to meet ‘em. Give ‘em some of my weed because I’ll be in awe.”

  Tucking the device back in place, I said warmly, “Thanks, Geezer.”

  “No prob.” He waved me off.

  “What can I do to thank you?”

  “Oh. Oh!” He grinned, his eyes sparkling. “Oh no. I’d like to live to see next week. Thanks, though.”

  I laughed. Couldn’t help it, but I was still worried. Something seemed off. “You okay, Geeze?”

  “Yeah, yeah.” He shrugged, jumping in place.

  I caught Grayley’s eyes and saw the resignation in them. Something was up.

  “What’s going on?” I asked sharply.

  “Nothing. Really. Take off,” Geezer joked.

  “Charles,” I barked this time, “you better tell me what’s going on.”

  “Jeez, Taryn, come on.”

  “Now,” I snapped, folding my arms.

  Geezer shuffled his feet self-consciously.

  Grayley rolled his eyes and kicked him with his foot. “Just tell her, dude. Maybe she can help.”

  “I don’t know…it’s…”

  “Geezer, tell her!”

  Finally, Geezer lifted his eyes to meet mine. I was surprised to see a sheen of tears in them.

  “What’s going on, Geezer?”

  “It’s my dad.”

  Seeing he had fallen silent, I looked at Grayley.

  “He’s back in town. He sent him a letter a few weeks back. He wants to stay at the house for a while.”

  “What’s he doing in town?”

  “I think—” Grayley started.

  “You don’t know that. You don’t know that at all! It’s fucking stupid is what it is. Fucking stupid,” Geezer cried out angrily.

  It was the second time I’d seen any sort of emotion like that in Geezer. I was taken aback.

  Grayley snorted. “Come on. Why else would he be in town?”

  “What? What do you think?”

  “I think,” Grayley announced, waiting for a reaction from Geezer, “that he’s in town doing business with Jace.”

  “Oh.” I didn’t know what to say. It was probably true. And it’d be just like him to use his son while he was toting up on drugs. “So what do you want me to do?”

  Geezer lifted his eyes, but didn’t say anything. He went back to shuffling his legs around, still self-conscious.

  I looked at Grayley.

  He rolled his eyes again. “Can you talk to Jace?”

  “Uh huh. No. That door on my life’s closed,” I said quickly, but already knowing the inevitable. Geezer was one of my best friends. He was family.

  “Taryn,” Grayley murmured.

  Geezer looked up at me with h
is hazel puppy dog eyes. Seriously. Why can I not be a bitch to those who are certainly condemning me to a further slide in my own pit of pain? But no. These two guys. These two guys—I’d do anything for. Including signing up for another week of wallowing pain.

  Ugh.

  Fuck.

  “Fine,” I murmured.

  Geezer lit up in a smile, rocking back and forth, his arms hugging himself.

  Grayley chuckled, punching me lightly in the arm. “Thanks Tar.”

  “Yeah. Yeah. Consider it a thank-you for helping me with this job.” I raised my eyebrows at Geezer. “But I’d be up for—performing—a more personal thank-you, if you’d like.”

  And there was that blush I loved so much. Chuckling, I waved goodbye and moved back through the trees, heading to my car. Walking across a back alley, I pulled my phone out and dialed Tray’s number.

  “About damn time,” he bit out in the phone.

  “Hey. Chill,” I soothed.

  “Where are you?”

  “I’m coming to you guys. You parked on Bentley, right? Behind the hardware store?”

  “How’d you know that?”

  “Because it’s where I’d parked—if I wanted to break into the school.” I hung the phone up, circling around the SUV. Inside I saw it was packed with guys, mostly jocks after further investigation. Not that it mattered, they all ran in the same social circle.

  Mandy’s. Not mine.

  There was another Expedition behind Tray’s and it was packed with students also.

  What were they planning?

  Tray climbed out, along with all the other guys as I approached from behind.

  He raked his eyes up and down my figure, a faint grin curling at the corner of his mouth.

  I clamped down on the warmth that started to spread through my body at his perusal. The guy could irritate me to no end, but one crook of that tempting mouth and…not going there.

  “Got something for me?” he asked, now grinning, but I still saw the irritation in his eyes.

  I handed it over. “It’s been wiped clean by my guy. You got the codes on there for Pedlam High, that’s it.”

  “No trust, Taryn. No trust,” he tsked. “What kind of relationship are we going to have if there’s no trust?”

  “One where we just fuck?” I smirked back, rolling my eyes.

  Tray held my eyes at that statement a moment. Then he grinned, before turning to follow his guys.

  “Hey.”

  Tray turned back. “Hmm?”

  “There’s three guards on shift.”

  “Three guards? What?”

  “Oh shit,” one of the guys moaned.

  “What the fuck do they need three guards for?”

  “How are we supposed to handle three guards?” another guy asked.

  Tray was studying me. “How’d you get by them?”

  I smiled, saying smoothly, “It’s why I do what I do.”

  “Taryn, this is wasn’t what I do.” He shot me a smug grin. His eye fell on the bottle in my hand. Pointing to it, he asked, “That for us?”

  I handed it over. “It’s for the guards. Don’t use too much and don’t leave it behind.”

  He lifted it up. “Thanks.”

  I sighed. Why the hell was I helping him?

  One of the guys hollered, “Thanks, Taryn! You’re awesome.”

  “Shut the fuck up!” Tray snapped.

  I turned to leave, but Tray asked, “Where are you going now?”

  I turned back, but continued to walk backwards. “I got some more business to take care of.”

  He frowned. “More?”

  “Yep.”

  “The same sort that you took me on a ride with?”

  “Yep.”

  I didn’t know how he knew, but he did. What perturbed me the most was that a part of me was glad he knew. I don’t know why. I didn’t understand it. But the other part of me…I didn’t like being read. Being read meant that I could be predicted. I was known for being unpredictable.

  Tray just nodded, not saying anything, watching me walk backwards until I finally turned and disappeared in the darkness.

  I could hear their feet shuffling against the street as they headed towards the school, in the opposite direction.

  *

  Holy. Shit. I did not want to go into that building.

  I was standing across the alley, the Seven8 was pumping in music, sweat, and drugs. I could hear the shouts from the crowd from where I stood. There was a waiting line, trailing around the corner.

  The club wasn’t normally this crazy, but apparently I had picked the best night to run an errand for Geezer.

  And my errand was inside.

  Oh God.

  I’d rather—sit in jail. Maybe not for a week, but…close enough.

  Taking a deep breath, I crossed the road, jumping lightly onto the sidewalk, seeing Ben holding back two screaming girls. He was joined outside the door by Grunt and Moan. Okay, those weren’t their real names, but those were the nicknames I’d always given them. Actually, I think Grunt really was his name. Probably not Moan though.

  Moving forward, I ducked around a girl who got shoved from the line. It was kill or be killed when getting inside this club.

  Drawing closer, I murmured, “Hey, Ben.” Seeing a somber look appear in his eyes, I didn’t take it as a good sign.

  He didn’t even say anything. He just watched me guardedly.

  “It’s that bad?” I asked, a pathetic try for a joke. Anything.

  “He was in the hospital, Taryn,” he finally said, folding his massive arms over his chest As the door opened, he simply turned back and effectively blocked three girls from darting through. They just bounced off his back. When he turned back around the stared at me gravely.

  “That wasn’t me. I didn’t do that.”

  “No, but your psycho ex did.”

 

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