The original crowd, p.58
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       The Original Crowd, p.58

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  knew was that I was in simmering mode, ever since I decided to trash that fucking room.

  An hour later, fully washed, each piece of glass had been swept up and deposited in a plastic bag, I walked into the kitchen and saw Tray lounging on the counter.

  “You find anything on the phone?”

  “Yeah.” He had that look again. The same one he had when he told me I’d been adopted.

  “What is it?” I asked, almost bored. But like I said, nothing could cut me anymore.

  “He called Brian thirteen times a few days before Brian’s car accident.”

  I just waited.

  “And he called the Seven8 three times. He called Geezer once and there was a video.”

  “A video of what?”

  “Of Grayley having a conversation with Jace.”

  I saw Tray pause.

  “Of what?” I bit out.

  “They talked about Brian. The video cut just when Grayley accused Jace of killing Brian.”

  “Where was the video taken?”

  “Couldn’t tell. It was just a dark room. But…there was an alarm in the back.”

  “An alarm? A security alarm?”

  “No. A bell, like one that goes off at the end of class.”

  “They were in the school? A school bell?”

  “I think so, yeah.”

  “So that means that Grayley’s there—in the school?”

  “I don’t know, Taryn. I just know that’s where he was when he took the video, but the phone was in the second warehouse. An empty warehouse.”

  “What about the flash drive. Did you find anything?”

  “Your friend Props is coming over. He’s going to take a look at it, see if he can find anything.”

  “And until then…what?”

  “Until then, we sit and wait.”

  “We sit and wait?” Are you kidding me? “Jace’ll know I was there. I trashed their security room, Tray. What do you think he’ll do when he finds out? He’s going to come straight here. We can’t afford to just sit and wait!”

  “And we don’t have enough to move on, Taryn. I’m not going into that school unless I know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into.”

  “What was the point of us even going into that warehouse!?” I shrieked. My best friend was missing. My ex-boyfriend was dead and we were just sitting and waiting. Fuck waiting. “I’m going to the Seven8. I’m going to find Jace and make him talk!”

  Tray stopped me before I’d gone two steps.

  “No, you’re not,” he said firmly, his hand on my elbow.

  I yanked my arm away and took a stand. “You have no idea, Tray!”

  He got right in my face. “I have every idea, Taryn!”

  “Fuck you!”

  “You can check that off the list!”

  I hated him. I really, really hated him, but I tried a different way. “We know how to break into that school. I already did it once, I can do it again.”

  “No.”

  “Tray.”

  “No.”

  “Tray, come on.”

  Neither of us heard the doorbell because Tray turned and snapped, “I said no, Taryn! We got nothing. I’d hoped for a little more than a fucking empty warehouse, but that’s what Jace gave us. He’s one step ahead of us. He knows we broke in and didn’t get anything. My guess is that it’s what he wanted all along. That was the entire purpose of the fucking warehouse, of Grayley’s car being ditched and fuck—probably even the cell phone.”

  “The phone was underneath a floor tile, I don’t think it had been strategically placed.” I retorted.

  “Um…hey guys.”

  Props had not chosen his timing well because both of us turned and glared at him.

  Props gulped and scurried into the library.

  “It doesn’t matter, Taryn. You’re not leaving because I know you’ll go to the school and that’s not going to happen. Not yet, anyway.”

  “When?”

  “I don’t know,” he muttered, cursing under his breath.

  “They have my best friend.” I said quietly. “I don’t want to go to his funeral.”

  “You won’t.”

  “You can’t promise me that.”

  “Then stop making me say shit like that!” Tray snapped. “You were two seconds away from running out. What do you think would happen if you got in that school and you found Grayley?”

  “I would’ve gotten him out.”

  “No. You would’ve gotten killed because I can guarantee that he wouldn’t be alone. You may be able to do a lot of shit, but some stuff you just can’t. That’s just how it is, Taryn.”

  “I am sick and tired of you—”

  “What the hell is this?!” Tray shouted. “You’re cold before and now you’re looking for someone to take it out on? I got picked because I won’t let you get yourself killed? Is that what this is about?”

  “Shut up.”

  “You said that you wouldn’t make a move without my say-so. I’m not giving it now. I run this show, Taryn. There’s a reason why you put me in charge. So just let me do this and I’m saying—now is not the time to go running to Jace for a confrontation. If the car was purposely put there and he wanted that warehouse empty…it’s to get you to come to him. That’s exactly what he wants and I’m saying no. We go in on our terms, not his.”

  “Fuck—”

  “Hey ho!”

  “What the fuck is this? A fucking nightclub?!” I shrieked. Add infantile tantrum to my resume, I’d ceased caring.

  But Gentley and Trent walked in, glancing between the two of us.

  Whistling softly, Gentley taunted, “Trouble in paradise?”

  “Fuck off, Gentley!” I snarled, sending him a heated glare.

  “I said I’d call if we had anything,” Tray said tensely, standing just behind me.

  “I’m not running off so you can back the fuck off,” I growled over my shoulder.

  Tray ignored me. “We don’t have anything, not yet.”

  “We’ll wait,” Trent retorted smoothly, jumping on the counter.

  “Tray! Yo!” Carter called from the front foyer.

  Of all times, this was really the time when I truly, absolutely, with my very last breath, hated that Tray had allowed his house to become the local hangout of the popular crowd. Fuck the circumstances behind the reason.

  “Get rid of him. Now.” I snapped.

  Tray lost it because he turned on me, “You can stop with this bitch attitude any second now because I’m two seconds from locking you in my bedroom.”

  Carter walked in, with Amber and Tristan—of all people—in tow when I retorted, underneath my breath, “Like it’d keep me in.”

  Tray clamped a hand on my arm when he turned to greet his friends, “Hey, guys.”

  “Whoa.” Carter came to a halt, seeing Gentley and Trent. “Uh…what’s going on?”

  “Tea party,” Gentley replied sarcastically.

  Amber giggled nervously. Tristan paled. But Carter just grinned and let out a whoop, “Sweet! Is it spiked?” He danced over to Tray and threw an arm around his shoulders, “Seriously, dude. What the hell?”

  Tray shrugged him off, but he did it so nicely I doubted Carter even realized he’d been shrugged off. “We’re just talking. What are you guys doing here?”

  “Oh!” Carter brightened. “Well, if you have to force it out of me, you have to force it out of me.”

  Tristan rolled her eyes.

  “But me and Tristan here have a bet. We bet how long it’d take for Amber to get you in bed. Tristan said never, but I have faith in Amber. She knows your old tricks. I give her a good hour, at least.”

  Trent swore while Gentley laughed.

  Tray sucked in his breath while I wrenched my arm free.

  As I stalked forward, I said quietly, dangerously, “Are you able to recognize when someone’s about to commit murder? Because if you don’t, this is what they look like.” I pointed to my face. “I’m at the end
of my rope to play games with you tonight. So if you still want to be here at this school and not have your mommy and daddy get a call from your old school due to some suspicious break-ins, I’d scurry your ass off. Now.”

  “Taryn,” Tray said quietly.

  I proceeded, “If the bet was really to see how quick you could push my lid tonight, whoever bet a fucking second won. My lid’s been pushed since last week, so if you want to keep pushing it, go ahead. Just don’t come crying to Tray when you get the results full-blast.”

  “Taryn, that’s enough.” Tray pushed me back. “Go check on Props. See if he’s got anything.”

  “I’m just getting started,” I said smoothly. And it was true. I could go all night. I was in the mood.

  “Right now all you’re doing is making yourself look like you have PMS. I don’t think that’s what you want, so go get some results out of Props and then we can talk about moving forward.”

  “Tray.”

  “No, Taryn. Props. Light a fucking fire under his ass.” Tray shoved me inside and then slammed the door shut.

  I turned and saw Props gulping—again—as he took in the look on my face.

  “Relax,” I murmured, tiredly. The fight had drained out of me when that door slammed shut. “You find anything on that flash drive?”

  He still looked nervous, but he said, “Uh, yeah…I mean…just a bunch of videos and stuff.”

  “What’s on the videos?”

  “A bunch of guys coming and going. Nothing too interesting.”

  “Let me see.” I leaned over his shoulder and watched as the screen lit up. But what I saw was enough to make me speechless.

  Holy. Fucking. Shit.

  I saw myself staring at an older version of Tray, walking with a slender female.

  They walked in, they walked out. And the rest was of security guards changing shifts.

  “So, like I said, not much,” Props murmured. “The cameras were wiped every eight hours. So whatever else was on here was wiped clean. It’s a loop surveillance. It loops over and over, just recording over whatever was there before unless a new video is inserted. But you got this off the mainframe, so my guess is that this is all there was.”

  But it was something.

  “Make copies and send these to your safe accounts. I don’t want anyone else getting this information, you got it?”

  Props sighed, but moved to the keyboard.

  When I walked back in the kitchen, Amber was going off, “She’s such a bitch, Tray! I don’t see what you see in her. She just went off on Carter like a homicidal psychopath.”

  But my cool was back, because I smirked, “Please. Just a homicidal psychopath? I would’ve hoped for a raging homicidal psychopath, at least.”

  I didn’t miss Tray going rigid when I stepped back in the room. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t comment on it. It was warranted.

  “Hey, Taryn,” Carter started, “I, uh…sorry. I didn’t mean to press your buttons like that.”

  “Yes, you did.” Duh. “But it’s fine. You got me in a rare moment and I let myself go off. It won’t happen again.”

  Carter blinked. There was no other description for his reaction.

  Gentley must’ve been bored because he spoke up, “Can we get some business dealt with tonight? As amusing as this entertainment is tonight, Gardner and I didn’t come into non-friendly territory for the hell of it.”

  I remarked, “We didn’t get anything.”

  “But what about the warehouse?”

  “What warehouse? What are you guys talking about?” Carter asked. The joys of being blissfully ignorant.

  “Empty,” Tray clipped out, sighing deeply.

  “But—”

  “It was empty. Everything was empty.”

  “So what—” Trent started.

  Amber interrupted, “Who’s Props?”

  Tristan was quiet, wisely. But she was watching everything.

  “No one,” I said firmly.

  Tray sighed, but he affirmed, “No one, Amber.”

  “What’s going on here?” Tristan decided to speak up, none the wiser. But she was alert as she asked, “What’s been going on for a while? Because something’s been going on. I know that much. Does it have to do with Mandy? Is Mandy okay?”

  “She’s fine and it has nothing to do with Mandy.” I promised.

  “Tray, what’s up?” Carter tried a different tactic.

  “Nothing. You guys should just go, okay?” Tray sounded tired, which he had a right. But, watching him, I knew he’d get a lot more on his plate before the end of the night.

  “But—”

  “Fucking leave, alright!” Gentley rasped out. “Holy fuck, you people are annoying. He said to leave, so fucking leave.”

  Amber looked indignant, but Carter read the message when Tray didn’t speak up against Gentley. Carter grabbed Amber’s arm and led her outside with Tristan trailing behind, but not before sending me a quelling glance.

  I turned away.

  “What’d you find out, Taryn?” Trent was the one who asked. All three were watching me, but I cut my eyes to Tray. He read the message immediately because he said, “We got an empty warehouse, that’s it. So you guys can leave until we find out more. Trust me, we’ll be moving on whatever we find but right now—that’s nothing. So leave.”

  Trent was about to argue, but Gentley must’ve thought better of it because he grabbed Trent’s arm and jerked his head to the door.

  Trent wearily accepted and followed, reluctantly.

  The door closed shut, an echoing sound.

  And Tray asked quietly, “So what did you find?”

  I looked up and met his gaze. He knew I found something, it was the only reason I would’ve come back as quickly as I had. But I was reluctant to say it. But I did anyway.

  “Your brother’s on the video. He’s with a girl.”

  Tray froze.

  And then he stormed out to the library.

  From the force Tray pushed through the door, Props fell over in his chair, startled. It would’ve been funny in any other circumstance, but Tray’s eyes were riveted on the screen where an enlarged image had been froze in place.

  Tray shut down. In that second, I knew he’d shut down. Everything else, even when Galverson had shown up, Tray hadn’t shut down. He’d gotten through it, but this time—it scared me.

  Tray scared me.

 
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