The original crowd, p.16
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       The Original Crowd, p.16

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  So I grabbed his chin and pulled him to me, his mouth meeting mine. It worked because it shut both of us up.

  Tray quickly took charge and dipped my head back, giving him more access to my mouth. He whirled around, moving me against the car, with his body pressing me back. God. One of his hands was sliding down my thigh, sliding around to my stomach, sliding up underneath my shirt. His other hand was firmly clamped on the back of my neck, keeping my mouth in place.

  I wasn’t fighting it. Believe me. I was meeting every one of his moves with one of mine. I had my own hands pressed up under his shirt, one hand moving to circle around his shoulder and the other tracing his abdominal muscles. Then I switched and my hand was sliding around his back, resting on the back of his shoulders, while the other slid to the inside of his pants.

  I felt his sharp intake of breath and grinned against his mouth, lightly biting his lower lip.

  He groaned and swept his tongue inside my mouth roughly.

  Holy…

  One of his hands traced upwards, softly against the swell of my breast, hidden from view, and lightly cupped me.

  I groaned this time and could feel him grin.

  Then I shoved him away, breathing raggedly.

  “Not. Here,” I choked out.

  “I know,” he said hoarsely, trying to steady his breathing, leaning his elbows on my car’s roof.

  “I have to go.”

  “I know.”

  Getting in my car, I remembered and shoved my hand out through the open door. “Here.”

  “What are these?”

  “Molly and Larkins’ phone numbers. I told them to be ready by ten.”

  “Can’t they just show up at my house?”

  “I told them you’d call and get directions. Make Larkins come to your palace, I don’t care, but you need to pick Molly up at her house.”

  “Why?” he asked, perplexed. He hadn’t reacted to my terms. Figured.

  “Just because.”

  “Nice.” He sighed.

  “Whatever.” I shut my door and glared one last time at him, of which he answered with a earth-shattering grin. That annoyed me even more so I gunned the engine and shot into traffic.

  Driving myself to Pedlam’s police headquarters.

  *

  Parking my car in the parking ramp, across from the hospital, which was just a block down from the police headquarters, I rounded to my trunk. Grabbing my theft pack, I took what smaller items I’d probably need. I’d love to go in with my rope, pulley, well—everything. But I couldn’t.

  So I needed to improvise, and that meant only taking the barest essentials.

  I hated it.

  I pulled on a blonde wig and added a sweatshirt underneath my jacket. It had to be enough. They couldn’t recognize me when they’d look over their surveillance videos later.

  Walking in through the front-door, I spotted the cameras first. I approached the front desk, and positioned my back to the cameras, a put a wide smile on my face. “Hi. I heard you guys have an opening for a secretary here? Could I get an application?”

  “Sure,” the officer replied, sliding an application from underneath the counter. “Here you go. Pencils, pens, clipboard. You can sit there to fill it out.”

  “Uh.” More help than I expected. “Thanks.”

  “Yep.” Then he was back to chatting with his buddy.

  Fuck. This place was busy for a Friday afternoon.

  So I sat—hunching over so my face wasn’t visible—and filled out the paperwork. I did it as slowly as I could, reminding myself that some people could take up to hours to fill out paperwork.

  Every few seconds, I’d glance up and watch. Just to observe what was going on around me. I noticed the cops who loitered around the pop machines, around the kitchen area in the back. I saw the one who remained in a group in the back, laughing. Then I noticed a lot people in plain clothes were wandering in and through the back hallway.

  Shift change.

  Or at least I was hoping.

  I hated this. I had to go in blind. And in a freaking police headquarters at that. To make matters worse, they’ve rebuilt it since the last time I was here.

  Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

  Good news, the cop behind the counter had apparently taken pity on me—probably thought I was too stupid to get the job anyway—and stopped watching me like a hawk about an hour ago.

  Another hour later, I noticed a routine. Every twenty minutes, the counter-guy would disappear for a moment. A bunch of females would slip around the second left corner, disappear for a few minutes, and then come back, splitting into their respective directions.

  Female bathroom.

  Bingo.

  So I waited. And the second the counter-guy took off again, I slipped around the counter and walked, as if I purposely knew where I was going—and was rewarded with a bathroom sign. I slipped inside and into a stall.

  And waited it out. There were enough stalls so no one noticed when my door stayed closed.

  Another hour. And another routine. Every thirty five minutes there’d be a rush for the bathroom, followed by another rush twenty minutes later. Don’t ask me why. My only guess is that maybe they were in different meetings that would either start or end at the same time. Either that, or everyone drank their coffee at the same time.

  As the last twenty-minute rush exited, I slipped onto the counter in the window-frame and tipped open the vent.

  Pulling myself up, I crawled inside and hoisted the vent closed behind me. Thank God this one wasn’t screwed in place. It was a Seal-Loc, and it worked perfectly because the damn vacuum was pulling me backwards—just slightly though.

  This is where I stayed—for another freaking four hours.

  My adrenalin was rushing so much, my body failed to recognize that I had to pee or eat.

  In some ways—that was the nice thing about jobs like this—the long-ass ones. They were also the ones that had the best rush at the end.

  This hasn’t been my first time doing a job like this. One time I’d stayed in the venting shafts for a good day. My legs had barely been able to hold me upright when I set foot on ground again. But that night…that might have been one of the best nights of my life. That’s when I’d gotten the codes to Corrigan’s account. I never mentioned the account was in a bank…with maximum security.

  Funny. You’d think the police would have better security, but no…they were probably equal.

  I just hoped I didn’t have to stay here a full twenty-four hours.

  Four hours later, I heard the day-shift investigators leave, shutting off their computers, saying goodnight. All their offices were pulled shut, with their lights off, and doors locked.

  There are two areas in police headquarters. The office area—where the detectives worked and the hub—where criminals were booked and charged, where the interrogation rooms were, and where the activity would be throughout the rest of the weekend.

  If my guess was right, one of these offices would belong to the detective that had been given the Pedlam case.

  And, from my bank of knowledge, it was probably the ‘Small Crimes’ office.

  Now, given that this building had been newly renovated and built—I’m hoping against hope that they’ve put the offices according to name. Which meant ‘Burglary and Theft’ would be the first office.

  So, I took a peek in the first office I came to, which was the ‘Special Investigations’ office. That meant the offices were now in reverse order, by name.

  The desk was right underneath the vent, so my feet touched lightly before I gracefully dropped to the floor. As I studied the office, I swiftly cursed as my eyes fell on a freaking map.

  Grabbing it, I raked my eyes over it, absorbing every freaking detail. And, spotting the office I needed, I estimated the distance. Sixty counts, with two right turns.

  So I went back up in the vent, pulling it shut behind me, and I was off. Working my way, using my system.

  Same layout, which was pe
rfect for me. Stupid for the developers. I found the office I needed and I grinned, so damn smugly, when I saw a box of evidence left in a chair by the door. Grabbing it, I riffled through, skimming the desk at the same time. I saw one note scribbled on a pad—Pedlam tapes. And at the same time, my hand found two DVDs; they each had ‘Pedlam’ scrawled across in big black marker.

  I looked through the rest. Just to make sure.

  I found a few witness accounts. Huh. None on me, but they saw two trucks parked behind the hardware store. No license plate numbers; therefore, no credible information.

  I shredded the witness accounts. Spying a candle on the desk, I opened the drawers, searching for a lighter. Flicking it on, I burned the bottoms of both the DVDs.

  And I left the same way I got in.

  Arriving at my car, an hour later, I first put everything back in my trunk, and then slid into my seat where I let out a deep breath. Holy shit.

  My blood was pumping. My heart was racing. And my whole body was thrumming with energy.

  I’d just broken into Pedlam’s police headquarters and destroyed evidence.

  *

  Checking my watch, I saw it was close to midnight. Carter’s party should be in full-swing by now. I had switched on the radio and heard Rawley had won, 28-14. Close enough to be a good game, but enough of a lead for bragging rights.

  As I drove into Rawley, I turned my phone on and saw that Mandy had called three times. Grayley had called once.

  Geezer.

  Visiting hours were over, that wasn’t even a question. I didn’t really feel like breaking into a hospital in the same night. So that meant I needed to hold up another promise.

  Listening to Mandy’s first voice message, I could hear the anger in her voice; she was pissed, accusing me of purposely skipping the game. In the second one, she’d been happy—must have been right after the win. And by the third one, she was drunk.

  What a shocker.

  I would’ve known where the party was from a mile away if she hadn’t left directions. Okay. Not really, but seriously—the music was blaring so freaking loud, I finally chose to turn my own radio off. The house was another palace, just like Tray’s. Lights were streaming out through walls that were just consisted of windows. Seriously. There were little wooden frames every now and then, but the entire house—just windows.

  Parking at the end of the lane, I walked closer and saw groups of kids in the front yard.

  Fuck. I recognized some Pedlam students. What the hell? They were supposed to wallow in their own parties. In Pedlam. Not here.

  And apparently, seeing more and more, they’d all taken root on the front lawn. So the rest of the kids inside were probably Rawley students.

  I hugged myself, suddenly chilled, and almost wished I’d kept my sweatshirt on, but to no avail, I was dressed in a sheer sweater, a black tank top underneath, and a pair of jeans.

  “Yo.” Came a holler, followed by a whistle.

  “Hey. Hey. It’s Lanser’s bitch.” That just had to be Gentley. Of course, he had to be here. None of the parties I’d been to in Pedlam had ever come to this proportion. Makes perfect sense now why so many Pedlam students were here, including Crispin Gentley.

  I hated him. Really. Really. Hated him.

  I rolled my eyes and kept walking.

  “Hey,” he said again, grabbing my elbow just as I was about to pass by.

  “Let me go!” I snarled, wrenching my arm out of his grasp.

  “Whoa. Calm, bitch.”

  My nerves were shot. I was too wired—my blood was still pumping from the job and my heart rate hadn’t slowed down, so I didn’t want to deal with him. I didn’t know what I would do or say. I didn’t feel in complete control of myself.

  “Whatever,” I muttered, darting past him and inside.

  “Hey!” he shouted, turning to follow me, but I quickly got lost in the crowd.

  I was a bit surprised that people were actually saying hello to me. What the hell?

  I searched the living room. The dining room. The second living room. The upstairs—cringing at every door I listened to—and then moved down into the basement, where I was more amazed to find an additional two living rooms. They were complete with an entire game room, exercise room, and whirlpool—which was full to the max.

  Huh.

  So I walked back upstairs and wandered outside, where I found Mandy. She was on the opposite side of the pool, situated on one of the five patios, in the corner with the volleyball courts to one side and a pool-house on the other.

  How could people live in homes like these? How could they remember to be people?

  She was sitting on Carter’s lap, his hand underneath her shirt, laughing and drunk. I was more stunned to find Tray at the same table, an amused grin on his face with Molly and Larkins in seats next to him.

  What the hell?

  Carter spotted me first. “Hey, you made it,” he said warmly.

  “Taryn!” Mandy screeched, stumbling over to me, throwing her arms around me. “I love you so much, do you know that? You came. I’m so happy. I didn’t think you would.”

  I hugged her back and patted her on the back. “I know. I had to take care of something.”

  “You’re always taking care of something. I…I worry about you. But you came! So yay!”

  “Yeah.”

  “You’re the best sister I’ve ever had.”

  I couldn’t say anything. I was still racing from my job and now this—a knot had formed in my throat. So I contented myself with patting her again.

  Carter rescued me. Laughing, he said, “Leave her alone. You’re suffocating her, Mandy.”

  Mandy giggled, pulling away and finding her way back to his lap. “I know,” she murmured, curling her arms around his neck again, “but I really do love her so much.”

  Tray kicked a free chair out for me.

  “Thanks,” I murmured gratefully as I dropped into the chair.

  I needed to calm down.

  Tray frowned, studying me. “You okay?”

  “Yeah,” I said quickly. Looking over at Molly, I asked her, “You having fun?”

  “Oh my God. My mom freaked when Tray pulled up. Then he came in—I swear my mom was going to have a heart attack,” Molly gushed, smiling widely. Realizing what she’d just said, she ducked her head but not before everyone at the table saw a blush explode over her face.

  Carter grinned at me. “Your friends are pretty cool. Larks has been entertaining us with stories about his pot-smoking buddies. Something about a goat.”

  Molly let out a shriek, laughing, and then ducked her head again.

  Molly was drunk.

  So was Larkins. I saw it in his eyes as he was openly staring, with lust, at Molly.

  Tray leaned closer and asked, “You want a drink?”

  “Yeah. Maybe one.”

  “Be right back.”

  As he left, I commented to Carter, “You’re one of the few around here who doesn’t seem drunk.”

  He smiled, his thumb rubbing against Mandy’s thigh. “Yeah. It’s
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