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The original crowd, p.28
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       The Original Crowd, p.28

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  Tray gave him a tight nod in return, his eyes meeting mine for a second before he put an arm around Bryce and helped him out.

  “Krein,” I spoke up, “we have another friend in there.”

  “My brother,” Amber spoke up. “Can I go with you?”

  Krein waited for Jace’s approval.

  Jace nodded, jerking a thumb in their direction. “Take her with you, find her brother. And then get all of them out of here.”

  Amber took one last look at Jace, raking her eyes up and down his body, before following Krein and two other guards.

  Sasha was studying Jace intensely.

  “What are you doing here?” Jace asked me, looking pissed.

  “My sister and her friends were here. They were in trouble.” It didn’t mean to sound like an accusation, but it came out that way anyway.

  Jace took it as one, too. He grimaced slightly, before he replied, “Tonight’s the first night of play-offs and there’s three conventions in town.”

  “Who’s Galverson?” I asked, my gaze unwaveringly.

  Jace’s jaw clenched. “No one you need to worry about.”

  “I can find out,” I returned smoothly.

  “No. You won’t,” he said swiftly. “And thanks for beating the shit out of my little brother.”

  “He asked for it,” I shot back.

  “He’s been…impossible since.”

  “And you expect me to apologize for that?” Right now, at that moment, it was incredibly hard to remember why I loved Brian. And why so much had been covered up with Jace.

  Because right now, at that moment, I was blistering furious.

  And Jace knew it.

  Handing Mandy to Sasha, I stalked towards him. “I’m thinking you know some stuff because there’s a whole lot going on that doesn’t add up.”

  “Taryn,” he said warily, “I don’t have time for this right now.”

  I grabbed his arm and whirled him back to me. “What’s been going on since I left? Nothing’s making sense, Jace. Brian never used to be this psychotic. Geezer’s dad is back in town. Grayley’s—shit—Grayley looks like he’s aged ten years.” Then remembering Ben’s words, I continued, “And what meeting were you in that you wouldn’t leave? Who’s Galverson?”

  “Taryn,” he said sternly, “leave it alone. I mean it.”

  It stung a little hearing him call me Taryn. Jace never called me Taryn, I’ve been Terry to him.


  “You. Will. Leave. This. Alone,” he bit out through clenched teeth, his eyes fierce.

  “Hey, Jace, we got him. His sister took him outside, Ben’s waiting by the back door for Taryn and the rest,” Krein called out, walking back in.

  Jace whirled and briskly ordered, “Get ‘em out.”

  Pausing, hearing Jace’s voice, Krein glanced to me, then back to Jace. His eyebrows arched as he waited. When nothing more was said, he commanded softly, “Alright, Tartar. Let’s go.”

  I stared at his back as he walked away, slamming the side door behind him. The sound echoed.

  “Dick,” Sasha mumbled from behind me.

  Breaking out of my reverie, I turned and saw her helping Mandy.

  “Come on,” I murmured, leading the way out.

  Krein stood uncertainly at the door, holding it open for us.

  “Taryn—” he started, but stopped and looked away.

  Krein was the joker; he was the badass who played pranks, the guy everyone loved at first sight, but that façade was gone and in its place was the reason why he was Jace’s second in command—it was cold and ruthless mixed with regret.

  And it hit me. Right then, right there…so much had happened that didn’t make sense. My life had been irreversibly changed. And I knew—it didn’t make sense.

  Nothing made sense anymore.

  As I turned and started to walk across the street, I knew. They’d done something. It involved me. It involved Brian. It involved Geezer and Grayley. And it was Jace who had done it.

  As the realization started to come clear, I felt the fury build inside. My hands started shaking with each step that took me farther away. Each dull thud my feet made on the pavement.

  And I glanced back. Once. I saw Krein still standing there, an arm hanging on the door.

  Jace had done something.

  And I’d take him down. Because, in that moment, I knew that he had fucked with my life.


  We went to Pedlam Hospital. Which was ironic, at least I thought so. While Bryce and Grant were getting checked out, with the rest of the girls too—I slipped up the side stairs, towards Geezer’s room. Tray watched me go, so I figured he’d guess where I was. We’d be there awhile anyway. It’s the ER, they’re always busy.

  I waited for a nurse to open the locked door and I caught it just as she turned the corner. Sneaking through, I silently walked down the hallway, seeing Geezer’s door was slightly ajar. I could hear the television on, more in the background and he was talking to someone on the phone.

  “Dude. I know, but it’s not right. Taryn has a right to know. I know, but—just—you promised, man.”

  The curtain was pulled so he didn’t see my shadow enter.

  Geezer moaned, “That’s not fair. Look, I’m just saying…I won’t tell her, alright. Fuck that.” He slammed the phone down, swearing swiftly.

  Then I stepped around the curtain.

  Geezer hadn’t seen me. He was staring out the window, replaying whatever conversation had just taken place.

  And then he turned his head, and our eyes locked.

  He looked paralyzed.

  I was furious.


  I cut him off, coldly, “You’re going to tell me. You’re going to tell me everything. Right now.”

  “I can’t, Taryn,” he began, almost desperately, “I can’t…they’ll—”

  “You’re going to tell me because if you don’t I’ll send your dad straight back to prison.”

  Geezer cared about three things: getting high, his father, and his friends.

  Threatening his life was useless. Geezer didn’t care how he went out, as long as he was high when it happened. His dad, however, was another story. He still held out hope that they’d have some relationship, that his dad would love him one day. He knew I’d follow through with my threat without a second thought.

  I’d never do the first. It would’ve been an empty threat, but this one—both of us knew it was the truth.

  “If I say anything, they’ll kill him, Taryn.”

  “If you don’t tell me, he’s dead either way. They’ll just get him in prison,” I returned evenly.

  “Taryn,” he begged, tears brimming in his eyes, “I can’t. You don’t understand—”

  “I don’t know what, not yet, but I know something’s going down. So much doesn’t add up, Geezer, and I’m beyond furious. I will figure it out,” I promised, my eyes glittering with fury in the moonlight.

  Geezer caught in his breath, staring at me, and he weighed his options.

  He choked out, “Brian didn’t beat me like this because of you. He did it because—”

  “Geezer,” I reminded him tensely.

  “My dad’s not working for Brian, not really. He’s a drug-runner from Boston. He came into town with a new crew.”

  “What does that have to do with Brian?”

  “Because Brian’s working for ‘em too.”

  I tested my theory. “Who’s Galverson?” I saw Geezer freeze. His skin turned a chalky pale color. He looked like death warmed over.

  “No one,” he whispered, looking away.

  “Galverson runs the new crew, doesn’t he? He’s who your father’s working for?”

  Geezer didn’t reply, but he didn’t have to. I read his body language, and it was enough.

  Jace wasn’t at war with anyone. He was working with them.

  I walked back out the door and headed to the ER lobby. Seeing Sasha and Mandy curled on one of the
couches, I moved to stand in the opposite corner, staring out the window. In the window’s reflection I saw Devon and Carter enter the lobby, looking slightly scared, but trying to hide it.


  Mandy flew into Devon’s arms.

  Interesting, but I wasn’t really surprised. I knew Mandy was going to take him back. It had been an unspoken understanding between everyone in their group.

  Carter grinned ruefully before going in search for Tray.

  “Devon, I was so scared.” Mandy was whimpering again. In that moment I realized how spineless my adopted sister was. I loved her, I had come to love her, but—she was useless in an emergency.

  “It’s okay, Mands. I’m here. They can’t hurt you anymore,” Devon was promising, kissing the top of her head, hugging her tightly.

  I felt a little sick.

  “Like you didn’t know they’d get back together,” Sasha remarked, coming to stand beside me. She was watching Mandy and Devon.

  “I did know,” I said softly, grasping the curtain lightly. “I just didn’t want to think my sister could settle for someone like him.”

  Exasperated, Sasha cried out, “You think you’re so goddamn better than us.”

  “No,” I said evenly, “I just don’t let people walk all over me. There’s a difference.”

  “Settle? You think that’s settling?” She gestured to Mandy and Devon. “Devon’s one of the nicest guys in school. He’s going to Columbia in the fall. He’s going to be a doctor. And you think Mandy’s settling?”

  “Yes,” I turned to face her squarely, “because he’s weak and she’s choosing to let him make her life miserable most of the time to feel that prestige…that immediate gratification—some of the time.”

  “You have no idea,” she cried out angrily. Her platinum hair flew in the air as she turned on me, her hands coming to rest on her pointed hips.

  “I know plenty,” I returned stiffly.

  Tray and Carter returned to the lobby. Bryce was being led out with Jasmine’s arm around him. Grant was supported by his sister.

  They turned to go, but Grayley and Brian entered at that moment. It was obvious they were looking for me, because they weren’t surprised to see me when their gazes settled on me, standing by the window.

  Geezer had tattled.

  I know it’s second grade, but that’s what I thought. Geezer had tattled on me and now I had to deal with the teachers; like I was the one in trouble.

  “Taryn,” Grayley began first, “you don’t know—”

  I stared at Brian and said softly, deadly, “I’m going to figure it out.”

  “Taryn,” Brian began softly, taking a step towards me, “you really don’t know. You can’t be asking questions…”

  “Like why my best friend,” I sent a scathing glare to Grayley, “lied to me and told me my ex-boyfriend beat up Geezer—because of me! You didn’t beat him up because of me, it had nothing to do with me.”

  “It had everything to do with you,” Brain insisted, glancing nervously at the front desk. “It still has everything to do with you.”

  “Why? What are you so goddamn scared that I’ll find out? What does Geezer’s dad have to do with me?” I didn’t care about being quiet, or that I was attracting attention. I wanted to know.

  I had to know because I knew that it had everything to do with me.

  Mandy was confused, but she’d stopped crying. “Taryn? What’s going on?”

  “Listen,” Brian closed the distance between us and reached for my arm, but the second his fingers touched my skin, Tray was beside me.

  He didn’t say anything, but Brian let go nonetheless and watched Tray warily out of the corner of his eye.

  “Taryn, you gotta drop this, okay? Listen to me, really listen to me. If you ever believed that I loved you—you gotta believe that what I’m telling you now is for your own good,” Brian pleaded.

  He was such a stranger to me in this moment.

  I didn’t even recognize him anymore. The boy who I fell in love with, the reckless, let’s screw the world attitude. An innocent rebel. This boy—man—that was standing in front me, I didn’t know.

  “I don’t know what to believe anymore,” I whispered, my eyes finding Grayley’s and seeing the torment in them.

  Grayley knew too. He’d been lying the entire time.

  “Taryn,” Grayley began, faltering as I took a step back, “don’t…I’m still your best friend. I still—”

  “You lied to me,” I condemned hoarsely. “You’re lying to me right now and you aren’t going to stop! I can see that you won’t.”

  “Taryn—” Brian pleaded.

  I cut in, yelling, “Shut up! I don’t even know who you are anymore. Do you think I like this? That I like realizing that the guy who I wasted five years of my life on isn’t real. That everything…everything was a lie.”

  “It’s not a lie. It wasn’t a lie,” he pressed desperately. “You have to believe that…I didn’t even…I didn’t even find out until…”

  “Shut up!” Grayley hissed, shoving him back.

  “But, Gray, it’s Taryn. It’s—”

  “I know, you dumbass! Shut up.” Grayley punched him, and realizing what he’d done, he whirled to me, his eyes wide. Panicked.

  I had all the answer I needed.

  I walked over to Brian and asked him quietly, “Who was the bracelet for?”

  The bracelet that I had seen in his room. When I’d broken in to screw with his computer. Brian didn’t keep bracelets. He didn’t buy them, he didn’t even steal them and it had been bothering me.

  Brian didn’t break into places. That had been my job. The bracelet was an item I would’ve stole—from a personal account. Someone’s private safe. It wasn’t a bracelet that was found in a store that could be swiped up with the mere flick of a hand.

  That’s why it bothered me.

  “Who was the bracelet for?” I asked again.

  “You,” he whispered, glancing nervously at Grayley.

  “Where did you get it?” I demanded.

  “That’s enough!” Grayley cut in, shoving Brian away. “Fine, Taryn! If you want to judge us, tell us to go to hell, fine. We’re done listening to your rants. When you realize the mistake you’ve made, you know where we are. You can come and apologize…and maybe…maybe things will be okay with us.” He turned and pushed Brian out the door, the sliding doors shut with a soft swish, just on their heels.

  Oh yeah.

  I had the answer I needed.


  Tray drove the first car, with Carter driving the second, and Devon drove Amber’s car. Everyone scattered between the three vehicles. Mandy rode with Devon, Grant and Bryce rode with Carter, and the girls—one guess on who they rode with—in Tray’s, with me.
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