The original crowd, p.35
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       The Original Crowd, p.35

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  Even I cracked a smile at that.

  The rest of the pep rally consisted of twelve football players riding the donkeys as they attempted to play a game that resembled ultimate frisbee, but with hands. And donkeys.

  It was a sight I’d never experienced before and I was suddenly glad that I hadn’t skipped.

  Molly was giggling the entire time.

  I nudged her, pointing to the corner by the picnic tables. “Aren’t those your friends over there?”

  “Yeah, but they won’t come watch this. They’ll just stay over there.”

  “How come?” I asked curiously.

  Molly didn’t answer, not right away. I asked again, and she said, faltering, “Because Kayden and Angela were made fun of one time during a pep rally.”

  “What?”

  She shrugged, looking uncomfortable. “They got picked by the crowd for a relay and Kayden tripped and broke her nose. Then one of the football players called her Rudolph in the microphone for everyone to hear. You know, because of the blood.”

  “Oh—” I didn’t know what else to say.

  “Yeah, then Angela tried to help, but Kayden tripped again and fell on her. Angie Hodgkins called Angela a handicapped elf, said she couldn’t walk and hold Rudolph at the same time.”

  I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I knew kids could be assholes, but where were all the teachers?

  “The teachers thought it was all a show.” Molly explained, no longer giggling.

  “I’m sorry,” I said sincerely. Molly wasn’t saying anything, but she must’ve had her own share of humiliation. There was a reason the three of them had banded together. Why they were called the Invisibles.

  For the first time since I’d been here, I was glad I had come to Rawley. I was happy I met Molly. She wasn’t an Invisible anymore and I’d take anyone on that tried to humiliate her again.

  “It’s in the past,” she murmured, her voice cracking. It wasn’t in the past. It was one of how many incidents that have happened in the past.

  “Why are you friends with me?” I asked honestly, dumbfounded as to why she’d want to be my friend. I was a bitch. It’s what I was known for and yet this Invisible had singled me out. She’d talked to me, and she continues to talk to me.

  “Because you’re not one of them,” Molly answered matter-of-factly.

  “But—”

  She turned and met my gaze, seeing the torment in mine—it must’ve been there—I was feeling it. Molly spoke truthfully, “You’re different. You’re…you’re one of us but…you’re one of them.”

  Molly continued, “I don’t know. I just…knew you wouldn’t turn on me like them. You’re not like that.”

  “I’m a bitch.”

  “Yeah. You’re a bitch to them. You’re a bitch to who deserves it. Not me. Not Angela or Kayden. You’re anything but a bitch to us.” Molly wiped away a tear at the corner of her eye.

  I was at a loss for words. My throat suddenly tightened.

  Drawing in a shuddering breath, I muttered, “I…I gotta go. See you tomorrow.”

  When I got to my locker, the hallways were completely empty, which was a good thing. I heaved a sigh of relief. I didn’t need to get into anything with anyone.

  “Hey.” I was tapped from behind.

  Turning, I saw Props standing, looking aggrieved. It was the only word I could think of to describe him.

  “Hi.”

  He handed me a flash drive. Gesturing to it, he said, “That’s for you. Everything. All trails, all traces, everything. Where each and every account wound up at.”

  I was surprised. It had been a day. Within twenty-four hours, he had everything I asked for.

  “Thanks.”

  “Yeah, well,” he shuffled slightly, stuffing his hands in his pockets, “you get what I wanted?”

  “Yeah.”

  His eyes lit up. “Really?”

  “Yeah. You’re taking her to a concert at the Seven8 on Friday.”

  “Oh yeah. Third Wave. They’re Aidrian’s favorite.”

  This guy was a littler stalkerish.

  “Um…yeah. I told her you’d show up with the tickets on Friday.”

  “How’d you get her to agree to it, man? I mean, I never thought…you know.” He was excited and riding a wave of insomnia no doubt.

  “I have to get the tickets first, but be ready Friday. I’ll get directions and her phone number—”

  “Already have it. I know where she lives too.”

  “Oh…um…okay.”

  “The concert starts at eight, so I can pick her up at six-thirty.” The dude was all business now. He was gleaming.

  “Alright, I’ll pass the message.” Then off he went, bouncing in the hallway giddily.

  Just then a wave of students came back in from outside. The pep rally must’ve finished because lockers were quickly thrown open and bags were all grabbed. Every football player looked on a mission as they grabbed their stuff and darted back out to the parking lot. Their Greyhound must’ve been waiting.

  I caught a glimpse of Mandy through the crowd. She was bouncing up and down, probably on a high from the pep rally. She threw her arms around Devon and gave him a long kiss.

  Then my eyes trailed over their shoulders and met Tray’s. He’d been watching me and was walking towards me.

  I grabbed my purse and nudged my locker door shut, slipping the flash drive into my front-pocket.

  “Hey,” Tray greeted, standing a few feet away.

  “Hey,” I said softly in return. I still didn’t know what I was going to say and I was very aware of the flash drive in my purse.

  “Some of us are going to Rickets’ House tonight—early play-offs celebration, but we’re all heading out to Crystal Bay right now.” Crystal Bay was a local lake that had a small cave which dipped into the cliff overhanging it. On the bottom of the cave was a green-blue pool of water, which literally sparkled when the sun slanted onto it. It was gorgeous and one of my favorite places to swim. I’d gone there once and I was itching to take a dive off the cliff, but when Mandy had taken me, it was too early. That was when I was nice and quiet—before the real Taryn came out.

  “Are you asking me if I want to come?”

  Tray rolled his eyes. “What the fuck do you think?”

  “I don’t…I can’t. I have to go to Pedlam to get those tickets I promised Casners.”

  I saw the tension enter his body just at the mere name.

  “It’s not like that,” I reassured him, not really knowing why I was reassuring him. “I’m not going for you know. I haven’t decided—”

  “I don’t get why it’s such a fucking hard decision! It’s a no-brainer Taryn!” Tray stood there, his jaw clenching.

  I didn’t like him yelling at me and I couldn’t stand that he was so angry with me. And I hated to admit that it bothered me so much.

  I reached out and slid a finger into the front of his pants and pulled him close. Against his chest, I whispered, “I’m sorry, okay?”

  Reluctantly Tray slid his arms around me, one of his palms resting underneath my shirt, just inside the back of my pants. He bent his head next to mine and I felt his breath on my neck.

  “Before,” I started, “before I would’ve already been over there, demanding answers, but now…you got in my head, alright? I just have to be the one to make the decision. Me. Not you.”

  “And I don’t understand why it’s taking so long,” he said roughly, but he pulled me tighter against him, dropping his forehead to my shoulder.

  “I don’t know why either.” I bit my lip, raising my arms around his neck. “But I promised your playmate tickets and those are in Pedlam, so that’s where I have to go to get them.”

  He went rigid again.

  I said quickly, “I won’t come across Jace or anyone. Promise. I can slip in and out and no one will ever know I was there.”

  “How long?” he asked harshly. God—he really hated that I was going to Pedlam. Remember the days when he d
idn’t give one shit? Fond memories.

  I grinned at my thoughts, but I answered, “Not long. Get in, get out. It shouldn’t take long at all.”

  “I could come with?” he offered.

  His offer earned him a deep long kiss. Of which both of us were breathing hard when I whispered against his lips, “Trust me. This is a one-woman job. They won’t have any idea I was been there.” I took a deep breath. “I could come to Crystal Bay when I’m done.”

  “You’ll have time?”

  “When are you going to Rickets’ House?”

  “Like, ten tonight.”

  “I’ll call when I get back. If you guys are still at Crystal Bay, I’ll show up. If not, I’ll just come to your place. Shelley and Kevin are heading out for a month-long conference today anyway, so no parents to check in with.”

  “Fine.” He gave me another hard kiss before he left for his locker.

  After that, I headed to my car. I made sure I had everything I needed in my trunk and then I was on the road, heading for Pedlam. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking back to when Tray and I were just fuck buddies.

  I turned the radio on and let myself get lost in the music. When I got to Pedlam, I circled the block, one down, from the Seven8. There was an apartment ramp, which came up right against where the Seven8’s basement ended. I parked in the ramp, and found a small, hidden door that connected the two complexes. I don’t even know if Jace knew about it. I found it, accidentally, one time when I was upset with Brian. I’d needed time alone so I went looking for a hiding spot.

  I quickly checked to make sure there weren’t any added security alarms.

  There weren’t, so I picked the lock and headed inside. The basement was pitch black—like always.

  The nice thing about me—I didn’t need light. I’ve always had excellent night-vision. So I just moved to where the maintenance elevators were and pushed ‘em open. Clipping my karabiner to the elevator cable, along with a glick’s lock, I hooked my ropes from the karabiner to my waist, and I started climbing up. Sliding the karabiner right along as I inched upwards.

  It was a workout and one I hated doing when was on a job, but sometimes there was just no way around it.

  So I kept inching upwards. It took about thirty minutes until I came across the sixth floor where the club manager’s office was located.

  I braced myself between the elevator cables and the doors. Pressing a Listening Ear—it’s a very cleverly named device, and there’s no sarcasm in that statement—against the doors, I listened to make sure no one was in the hallway. There shouldn’t have been anyone there yet. It was around four in the afternoon; the staff wouldn’t start heading in for about two more hours.

  I gritted my teeth as I pulled open the elevator doors, and slipped through. The doors shut immediately, sliding smoothly back in place. I was exposed in that moment, and I hate it. Stupid Jace didn’t want to put venting shafts from the elevator, said it would be too easy for someone to break in. The only nice thing was that this floor was the least populated. Most of the staff either headed up to the private suites or to the conference rooms on the second floor. Jace told me once that they couldn’t put cameras inside the boxes, so they put them up in the hallways instead. That way they had a record of who was going in and out.

  I quickly darted down the hallway and picked the lock on the manager’s office door. Jace had hired two of them, Noble and Richard. I always had to grin—Richard. It was too easy. I liked to refer to them as Noble Dick. The funnier thing is that they didn’t even get along; both were complete opposites. But both were control freaks. Which was why I knew one of them would have copies of backstage passes and some last-minute tickets in their desks. They never trusted the other to take care of that stuff so they acted as if they were the only club manager.

  Inside, I quickly rifled through the bottom drawers of Noble’s desk first, making sure to put everything back in its place. They weren’t there. The second drawer didn’t have ‘em either. Turning, I caught sight of a pile on his chair. The guy was just messy. Everything was a mess, but I knew Noble knew exactly where everything was.

  Looking through the pile, I saw a packet of back-stage passes, banded together with a rubber band. I grabbed two and—a sense of triumph flashed through my body—I saw a file labeled ‘Third Wave Tickets.’ When I opened the file, I saw a stack of tickets for front row seats.

  I grabbed the tickets and the back-stage passes, stuffing them in my little pack that was plastered against my back, and headed back out. Just before I reached the door, I heard voices.

  Fuck.

  I quickly slipped out the door and ducked into an office further down. Thank God the office was empty. I couldn’t be caught in the manager’s office. And I really couldn’t let them know that I had ever been there.

  As I lifted the window, the door suddenly opened and I had just enough time to register that it was Jace’s voice.

  “Yeah, I’m looking now. Fuck off. I’ll get the fucking gun and head down in a minute—”

  He must’ve seen me.

  I looked over my shoulder, poised just on the window frame, and saw his cellphone drop to the floor.

  He was frozen in place, staring at me.

  And then I jumped.

  Landing on the patio, three floors down—fuck, that hurt—I rolled to the end and grabbed the under-railing as my body continued to fall towards the ground. Closing my fingers around the metal—damn, it fucking hurt—I could feel my skin tearing away. But I dropped to the ground, seemingly a second later, but my assent was slowed—slightly—by the railings.

  I didn’t have time to look up, I didn’t dare. So I ran, sprinting down the alley and trying to blend in with the crowd on the street.

  Gritting my teeth, I quickly wrapped the end of my shirt around my hands, pressing it against the wound as I doubled back. Walking down the parking ramp, I got to my car and climbed inside, quickly starting it and getting out of there. I only took enough time to grab a towel in the back. I tore it in half and wrapped each end around my hands.

  As I reached the outskirts of town, I pulled over. I deposited everything in my trunk, swearing at myself—I’d lost my ropes, karabiner, and glick’s lock—when I’d had to change my escape route.

  First rule of burglary: plan on being caught. That meant: always have an escape route ready. And it meant taking everything with you that you couldn’t afford to leave behind, and what couldn’t be traced back to you.

  The items couldn’t be traced to me—not that it mattered. Jace already knew I’d been there. He wouldn’t know what I stole though. No, he’d probably think I’d been there looking for secrets or whatever the hell else that he was hiding. Not front row tickets and backstage passes. And that’s quite alright. Jace could think whatever he wanted.

  But my equipment was expensive. Shit, it was really expensive.

  I got back in my car, and leaned my head against my seat tiredly. I inspected my hands again, gently prodding to check on the bleeding. It had stopped, but the dried blood glued the towel against my skin. When I’d need to re-bandage, I’d probably open the cuts again.

  I started the engine and headed home. I needed to drop my stuff off, disinfect my hands, grab a transparent seal to place over my hands, and then head to Crystal Bay. Complete with my bathing suit. There was no way I was going to pass up a chance to dive off that cliff.

  Literally.

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  I’d changed at the house, so I was ready to go when I parked and walked down the steep trail that would open up to a beach as I got further down. Crystal Bay was around a cliff that jutted out, meeting the rocks that the waves crashed into. You had to walk on those rocks, to find the narrow rock-ridge leading into Crystal Bay.

  As I braced myself on the rocks and followed it inside, I could hear voices. They echoed off the cliff walls, but grew louder as I drew closer. Ducking inside the cave, I was able to see where the trail led. The light grew dim, but it was st
ill manageable. I
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