Skip to content

Be Careful What You Wish For – Ch. 6

While I wait for Theresa to reappear, I do some more digging into her family. Her father, Grant, was involved in real estate, and at the time of his death he was upside-down on a dozen properties, which could explain why he murdered his family and then shot himself, but if that’s really what happened, how did Theresa survive? Something about his business dealings doesn’t sit right with me, either. All of his investments were made with his own money, except one, which he went into with a real estate holding company called Landale. I’ll need to take a closer look at Landale before I can pinpoint what it is about them that makes me uneasy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were a front for organized crime or illegal dog fighting or something like that.

Before I get a chance to dig deeper into Landale, I get a hit on those account numbers. I trace Theresa when she accesses an unsecured wifi network, offering my cab driver an extra fifty if he can get me there in ten minutes or less. I find her in a run-down Laundromat, huddled over a laptop. As I approach her, she closes the computer and stands up, the wariness of a wild animal in her eyes.

“It’s all right, Theresa,” I say, holding up my hands and trying to look as harmless as I am. “I want to help you.” She backs away from me, looking around for a way out, and I pray she doesn’t decide to bolt — I have no hope of keeping up with her. “I need to know what happened on that boat,” I say. “Why did your father kill you mother and brother? How did you get away?”

Her face twists with anger and sorrow, her lip curling as she snarls at me. “My father didn’t do that. That man killed them.” My hunch was right, it wasn’t Grant, which moves Landale to the top of my suspect list. “Now get away from me.” She pulls a slim box cutter out of her coat pocket, holding it like she knows how to use it.

“Theresa, please, I’m here to help you. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

“You shouldn’t lie to kids.” The man’s voice is heavy, foreign, perhaps eastern European. I see Theresa look past me and tense, her grip on her knife tightening. I turn, my eyes widening and my heart climbing into my throat at the sight of the gun he has leveled at us. Landale is run by suits, they’d never get their own hands dirty, which means this must be someone they hired, a hit man. For a moment, I can’t move, then I grab the girl and shove her down behind a bank of dryers, ducking down beside her as the man fires, the shot ricocheting off the metal. The handful of patrons trying to do their laundry scream and run, jostling and shoving to get out of the building. Theresa tries to make a run for it, but I grab her arm and pull her back down.

“Get off me! We’re not safe here!” she hisses, trying to jerk free. I’m lucky she doesn’t use her box cutter on me.

I pull my phone out of my pocket and hit the call button. “Mr. Reese,” I say, my voice shaking. “I wish you were here to protect us.” Bastard better not ask for payment upfront. I hear footsteps and glance up, my arm moving instinctively to try and shield Theresa as the hit man points his gun at her.

A dark blur flies out of nowhere, slamming the man back against the wall of washers. Reese grapples with him, the gun skittering across the floor. I heave myself up off the floor, biting back a cry at the pain in my leg, and pull Theresa to her feet. I watch, confused as Reese fights with the hit man, throwing punches and kicks, taking blows and getting thrown up against the dryers. He’s a genie — can’t he just turn the guy into a poodle or something?

Suddenly, the killer gets the upper-hand, flinging Reese into the plate glass front window. The glass shatters, showering the sidewalk with little squares of safety glass. I wait for him to get up, but he doesn’t move. The hit man watches him for a moment, then turns and walks over to his dropped weapon. I scramble back as he picks it up, but there’s nowhere to go. I step in front of Theresa as he points the gun at her, squeezing my eyes shut.

Shots ring out and I jump, a panicked sound catching in my throat. It takes only a moment to realize that I haven’t been hit and I think my heart stops. I spin around, but Theresa is just standing there, her eyes wide. I think she’s in shock, but I don’t see any blood on her. I look back at the hit man as he crumples to the floor. Through the broken window, I see Reese climb to his feet, a gun in his hand, and shake the broken glass out of his hair. What is he doing with a gun?

Something brushes past me and I turn as Theresa runs for the door.

“Stop her,” I say to Reese, standing just a few feet from the entrance. He watches her run out, his expression hard as he looks back at me. Son-of-a-bitch. I’m tempted to tell him to go fuck himself, but I already owe him for one wish, which promises to be awkward, to say the least, when it comes time to pay, and there’s no way I can keep up with a teenager. I’d be lucky to catch a ninety year old pushing a walker. I grit my teeth. “I wish you would stop her.”

He takes off running and I follow at my own laborious pace. This hit man might be dead, but that doesn’t mean Landale — or whoever is responsible, but I’m betting on Landale — won’t try again. I need to keep her with me until I figure out why they want her dead and how to stop them permanently.

At the corner, I find them waiting for me. I wonder what Reese said to make her stop, but I don’t ask. I don’t even look at him.

“Who are you?” Theresa asks, her gaze shifting back and forth between us.

“My name is–” I hesitate. “Harold. This is Reese. We’re going to keep you safe.”

“I’m better off on my own,” she says with a shake of her head.

“The people who sent that man to kill you also killed your family, and I don’t think they’re going to stop. Do you know why your family was targeted? Did it have something to do with your father’s real estate business?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know. I heard my dad say it was all my uncle Derrick’s fault, though, and then that man shot him in the head. He said if anyone ever found out that I was still alive, he’d come back and finish the job.”

“Was that him?” I gesture back toward the Laundromat.

“No. Which means he’ll be coming for me. Now please, just let me go.”

“You can’t keep running,” I tell her. “I know you don’t know me, but you have to trust someone sometime. I can protect you.”

She looks up at Reese, then back at me. “Why are you doing this? Why do you care?”

“Because…because if I don’t, no one else will. No one else can. No one else knows the things I know.” She looks like she doesn’t quite know what to make of my answer, or even if she should believe me, but we don’t have time for me to try to convince her. I can hear sirens drawing near. “We need to go.”

“Where?”

Good question. I can’t take her back to the library. “Somewhere safe,” I say, and hail a cab. I tell the driver to take us to a hotel across town. That should be safe enough. I call ahead, reserving the entire seventh floor and placing an order for room service. I bet it’s been a while since Theresa had a hot meal.

Once we get the girl into one of the rooms, I allow myself a hesitant sigh of relief. She’s far from safe, but she has a much better chance than she did an hour ago. While she dives into an overpriced cheeseburger and plate of fries, I take Reese aside.

“I think a company called Landale is behind this,” I tell him. “I need you to find out why they want this girl dead and find a way to stop them.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to try to handle it yourself?” he asks.

I stiffen. “Thanks for reminding how well that worked out. Do you want me to make this wish or not?” He glowers at me. “Unfortunately, it looks like I don’t have a choice. I wish for you to find out what Landale is up to and stop them from having Theresa killed.” I wait for him to leave, hoping he decides to use the door instead of just disappearing, but he just stands there, staring at me. “What? Are you refusing to grant my wish?”

“No. But you do owe me for two wishes already.”

“And I suppose that’s the extent of my credit?” I am not letting this demon savage me with a teenage girl in the next room.

“No, but I don’t think a small good-faith payment is out of the question.”

“Good-faith?” I repeat, arching an eyebrow. “You don’t trust me to pay my debts?” He doesn’t respond. I am not a violent man, but I’m suddenly struck with the urge to hit him. Instead, I grab him by the front of the shirt, jerk the hotel room door open, and drag him out into the hall. I had asked the manager to keep the housekeeping staff off the floor, so I know we won’t be interrupted. “Fine, take your ‘good-faith’ payment. Take whatever you have to so you’ll get out there and stop whoever is trying to kill that girl, because I’ll pay whatever you ask, because I can’t do this on my own.” And I hate it. I hate being helpless, I hate having no choice. And I hate that he scares me.

He steps toward me and I tense, but don’t move away. He puts a hand on my arm, just below my shoulder, his touch light, and I brace myself. “I’m sorry,” he says.

I frown. “I beg your pardon?”

“I shouldn’t have questioned your dedication to saving your numbers, and I shouldn’t have taken it personally that you don’t want to be intimate with me. It’s just been so long…” He stares at me, his blue eyes filled with such painful yearning. Then he looks away. “I forget what complicated creatures humans are.”

I regard him for a moment. “And genies aren’t?” I ask, trying to decide what he expects this apology to get him.

“No, we’re really rather simple by comparison. I told you, a genie’s greatest desire is to please their master. I thought I was, and then…I shouldn’t have asked you to heal me. I am your servant; I had no right.”

I look down at his hand, still wrapped in my bloody handkerchief. I guess he didn’t go to the clinic. “Does it still hurt?” I ask him.

“Yes.”

I don’t know if I can risk believing him. “Why were you able to be injured? I know you know.” He hesitates. “Tell me and I will accept your apology.”

He looks pained as he raises his head, his eyes downcast, unable to meet my gaze. “A genie is essentially a soul bound to an object. I was created, designed for this existence, but the thing about souls is, regardless of whether they grow inside of a living being or are constructed from the ether, they wear and fray, the edges become tattered, they grow thin and tarnished. I’ve served evil men and carried out their evil wishes, and my soul bears those scars. In the past thousand years, I’ve spent more time lost than found, decades and centuries spent alone, feeling myself fade slowly away, struggling to hang on in the darkness. And now I’m not even a shadow of what I once was. My powers are weak and when I use them, it leaves me vulnerable.

“I lied because I didn’t want you to be disappointed, and I’m sorry.”

It seems awfully elaborate for a lie, but like the best lies, there’s no way I can verify what he’s saying. The rational part of my brain is threatening to go on strike if I even consider this nonsense, but I can’t ignore one simple fact — Reese is a genie. I’ve seen the evidence with my own eyes. Which means he might be telling the truth.

“Apology accepted,” I say, deciding to give him a tentative benefit of a doubt. “I can understand why you might think I’d be disappointed, but I’m not. I never could have saved Wheeler and his son, or Mr. Henderson, or Theresa without you, and the fact that you did it without the full extent of your powers makes it all the more impressive.” And explains the fistfight in the Laundromat.

“Thank you, Master,” he says, finally raising his head and making eye contact, his gaze so intense I have to resist the urge to look away. He leans toward me and I just stand there. I don’t try to stop him because I said I wouldn’t. His lips cover mine, so soft and warm, his kiss stealing my breath and leaving me dizzy. I grab the shoulders of his jacket, clinging to him as he explores my mouth, and even with tongue, he’s not rough or demanding. The only word I have for it is…tender.

When he draws back, I’m left gasping, my skin flushed. “Was that your good-faith payment?”

For a moment, he looks surprised, then glances away, but not before I see the hurt in his eyes. “No, that was a kiss, but I’ll take it as payment if you want. I’ll go stop Landale now.” He walks away and I feel compelled to call after him, but I don’t know what to say. I open my mouth, take a breath, but before I can speak, he vanishes in a whirl of smoke. I stare down the empty hall, confused and conflicted. I know he’s just manipulating me, playing me like a fiddle, he has to be, but I want to believe him. How long has it been since anyone looked at me the way he does? Has anyone ever looked at me like that?

With a sigh, I return to the hotel room, locking the door behind me. Theresa sits on the sofa, half of her cheeseburger in one hand, the knife from the food tray in the other, eyeing me like she’s giving serious thought to slitting my throat. “Where’d the other guy go?” she asks.

“He’s going to figure out why people are after you and put a stop to it.”

“And then what?”

I hadn’t considered that. “You can stop running,” I tell her. “I’m sure your Aunt Elizabeth will be glad to know you’re alive. Perhaps you could live with her.”

She shakes her head. “My dad said it was Uncle Derrick’s fault–”

“They’re not married anymore,” I tell her. She seems to think about that while she finishes her burger.

She looks up at me again. “Is that guy your boyfriend?” she asks, catching me off guard.

“No,” I say with a slight frown. “Why do you ask?”

“I saw him kiss you.”

I start to ask how, but turn and glance at the peephole in the door. I look back at her and she shrugs, arching an eyebrow as she waits for an explanation.

“It’s complicated,” I tell her, “but he is not my boyfriend.”

“Whatever,” she says, rolling her eyes.

<– Prev   ~*~   Next –>

One Comment
  1. Aww… Poor Reese. Languishing away in a forgotten lamp…

    Fave line: “can’t he just turn the guy into a poodle or something?”
    And Theresa’s “Whatever” ROFL!!

    It was so angsty and sad and sweet when Finch brought up the matter of “payment” and Reese was hurt…

    Okay, there are only 2 more chapters, work can wait…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: