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Be Careful What You Wish For – Ch. 7

After a rather long and uncomfortable hour attempting to make small talk with Theresa, my phone finally rings. It’s Reese. I rise from my chair to answer it, turning my back on the girl. “Hello?”

“It is Landale,” he says without preamble. “Turns out the property Grant needed their help buying was contaminated by an oil spill and practically worthless. The government was supposed to clean it up, but they took too long and Landale got tired of waiting for their money, so they had Theresa’s family killed. Now that the land is finally cleaned up, it’s worth fifty times what Grant paid for it, and Theresa is the legal heir.”

“Which is why they want to make sure she can’t come forward to claim it. Can you stop them?”

“I’m about to have a little talk with the man in charge.”

I hesitate. “Try not to kill him. Unless you have to.”

“Of course,” he says. “I gotta go.” I hang up and turn, startled to find the sofa empty, the girl’s bag gone. Damn it. She’s halfway down the hall and heading for the elevators.

“Theresa,” I call, feeling like I have shards of broken glass where my hip should be as I hobble along as fast as I can. She glances back at me and I’m forced to stop, leaning against the wall as I catch my breath. “You know I can’t keep up with you,” I say. “Will you at least tell me where you’re going?”

She shakes her head. “Thanks for caring, but I’m better off alone.”

“I don’t think so,” I say, ignoring the pain as I limp toward her. “That was Reese on the phone. He knows who is responsible for your family’s murder, and he’s going to stop them. It won’t be much longer. Please, just give us a little more time.”

She hesitates, then nods and starts back toward me. I wait until she reaches me before I turn and begin the long walk back to the hotel room. To my surprise, she matches pace with me. “Do you want some help?” she asks.

“I’m fine, thank you,” I say, and I’m not sure why, but I add, “I was in an accident a few years ago. Really, I’m lucky to be alive.”

“Do you feel lucky?” she asks, her voice quiet. “Or do you wonder why you survived, what makes you so important?”

I glance over at her, her young face shadowed by dark thoughts and burdened by guilt. “Sometimes,” I say. “That’s why I try to help people like you.”

Back in the room, she sits and stares off into the distance, thinking about her family, I’m sure. I hope her aunt will take her in; she’s already been through so much, she doesn’t deserve to be lost in the foster system. If that is the case, I’m sure I can do something about it. I can have Reese check out the families and I can manipulate the paperwork to make sure she isn’t placed with a pedophile or someone in it just for the money. I can arrange for her to go to a good school and pay for a tutor to help her catch up on the last two years she missed, and if she wants to go to college, I can afford tuition wherever she gets accepted.

We are both roused from our thoughts by a faint sound from the hall. I frown. There isn’t supposed to be anyone on this floor.

“What was that?” she asks and I motion for her to be quiet. I have a bad feeling.

“Get up,” I whisper, limping over to her and pulling her back behind the sofa. A loud, metallic clang makes me jump and we drop to the floor, sitting with our backs against the couch. I peer over the back as the door swings inward, my heart racing as a figure steps into the room. I turn back to Theresa, her face pale and eyes wide, and hold my finger up to my lips as I reach into my suit jacket for my phone.

It’s not there.

I close my eyes, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I remember setting it down on the arm of the chair earlier. Theresa grabs my arm as the heavy tread of a man draws closer to our hiding place.

“I need your phone,” I whisper. She digs into her jacket pockets and I cringe at the soft jingling of loose change. She hands me her cell and I grip it tight. “When I say, you run,” I tell her.

She shakes her head. “I’m staying with you.”

“I’ll be right behind you,” I say, putting my hand in the middle of her back. The footsteps get closer. I draw a sharp breath. “Run. Now.” I shove her to her feet and propel her toward the door as I twist my body around, a lance of white fire burning down my spine, but I know the pain won’t last. Not this time. The hit man — it’s not possible, but he looks like the same one from the Laundromat — takes aim at Theresa. The throw her phone, hitting him in the side of the head, and he flinches, whipping around to face me as I heave myself to my feet.

He shoots me. The impact spins me around and I fall against the wall, my left arm heavy, my fingers numb. Then the pain hits, like I’ve dipped my arm in kerosene and lit a match. I gasp, unable to catch my breath, and even breathing hurts. I look back at the hired killer as he turns away from me, heading for the door.

“Leave her alone, you son-of-a-bitch,” I grit out through my teeth as I shove myself away from the wall, stumbling toward him. He looks annoyed as he points his gun at me again, and I know this one will be more than a flesh wound. I hear the shots and I jump, but he’s the one who stiffens and falls to the floor. I stare, waiting for him to get back up again, but he doesn’t move.

I look up as Reese steps into the room, staring at me with wild, haunted eyes. No doubt about it now — no one has ever looked at me like that. He steps over to the body and leans down, tearing open the hit man’s shirt to reveal a bullet-proof vest, but I can also see a puddle of blood forming beneath him from where Reese hit him in the unprotected side. He rises and glances toward the door as a terrified Theresa Whittaker peers in. She sees me and rushes over.

“Oh, my God, you’re bleeding,” she says, standing in front of me, her hands held in front of her like she wants to do something but doesn’t know what. “He shot you.”

“It’s just a scratch,” I tell her, even though I can feel the blood running down my arm. “We need to go — someone will have heard the shots and called the police.” She hesitates, then turns away, hurrying to grab her bag and find her phone. I pick up my cell and slip it into my pocket. “How did you know?” I ask Reese as he steps over to me.

“I talked to Calhoun,” he says, examining the hole in the shoulder of my jacket, the material quickly growing dark and wet. “He said I was too late, he couldn’t stop the hit. I got here as quick as I could.” He frowns, clearly disappointed in himself for not getting here sooner.

“We’re both still alive,” I tell him. “That’s all that matters.”

“I was almost too late,” he says and places his hand on my arm, between the elbow and shoulder. His eyes flicker and I feel a strange, cold sensation crawl across my skin, then the pain is gone. He draws back and I turn to the mirror on the wall, staring at my undamaged jacket, the blood stains gone. I raise my arm and flex my fingers, but it’s like the wound never happened.

I look back at Reese. “Why did you do that? I didn’t make a wish.”

“You didn’t have to,” he says. “My purpose is to serve you; I want to serve you.”

Standing in the doorway, Theresa clears her throat. “Could you two lovebirds continue this somewhere else? I don’t want to go to jail today.”

“Lovebirds?” Reese questions as we follow her down the hall to the elevators.

“She saw you kiss me.”

“Does that bother you?”

I don’t answer for a moment. I’m of the opinion that my sexuality is no one’s concern but mine. I don’t try to hide it, however. I am comfortable with who I am. “I suppose not,” I say finally. “Although I can imagine a large portion of the population being displeased by two men making out in front of a teenage girl.”

“Oh, please,” Theresa says, punching the button for the ground floor. “Like I haven’t seen worse.” We manage to slip out without being detained. Once on the street, I hail a cab.

“Theresa, I want you to go with Reese. He’s going to take you to your aunt’s house. I’m going to call her and explain what has happened.”

“What- what if sh- she doesn’t want me?” Theresa asks, her voice growing husky as she fights to keep it steady.

“That’s not going to happen,” I say, “but if it does, I’ll make sure you’re taken care of.”

“I don’t want to go into a foster home. Half the kids on the street ran away from foster homes.”

“I’ll find a good one, I promise.”

“I want to live with you.”

That takes me by surprise. “Theresa, you don’t even know me.”

“I wouldn’t know a foster family, either. And I trust you.”

“I- I work, I’m busy all day–”

“And I’ll have to go to school,” she says. “You won’t have to do anything — I’m not a little kid.”

“No, you’re not,” I say. I can’t believe I’m even considering this. “All right, if your aunt can’t take you and we can’t find a foster home that you’re happy with, you can live with me.”

“All right,” she says, nodding and trying to play tough, but I can see the relief in her eyes. She looks at me for another moment, then turns and climbs into the waiting cab.

I look over at Reese and sigh. What the hell have I just agreed to? “I wish you’d take Theresa to her aunt,” I say to him. “I’m going to call her now and if it sounds like it isn’t going to work out, I’ll call you and tell you where to take her instead. Okay?”

“Yes, Master Finch,” he murmurs, just loud enough for me to hear, and then he climbs in beside Theresa. I watch the taxi drive away, then take out my cell and call Elizabeth Whitaker. I had intended to call her to see what she knew about her ex-husband’s dealings with Landale, but in all the excitement, I never got around to it. She answers and sounds tired, perhaps even distraught.

“Elizabeth Whitaker, my name is Arthur Bellenger, I work for the Department of Children and Family Services. Is this a bad time?”

“No, I– Ah, I mean, my ex-husband was found murdered this morning, but other than that, I’m fine. Who did you say you worked for again?” Derrick was murdered? The hit man must have gone to him to see if he knew where Theresa was.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” I say. “I’m with Children and Family Services. Your niece, Theresa, has been found alive. As the closest living relative, we were hoping you would consent to becoming her guardian.”

“Theresa? She’s alive?” She sounds in shock. “How? Where was she?”

“She’s been living on the streets for the last two years,” I say. “I don’t have all the information, but apparently her family was killed so that some company could walk away with a piece of property Mr. Whitaker owned. She hasn’t wanted to talk to us about it, except to say that her father wasn’t a murderer.”

She sobs. Poor woman. “Where is she?” she asks after a minute. “Can I come get her? What do I have to sign?”

“One of our people will bring her to you and the paperwork can wait until another time. She’s been traumatized and we think it would be best for her to see a familiar face as soon as possible.”

“So you- you’re just going to give her to me?”

“Is that a problem?”

“No, but– that just doesn’t seem like something a government agency would do. There’s always waiting and paperwork.”

“This was my call, Mrs. Whitaker,” I tell her, “and I thought Theresa had been through enough.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much.”

I hang up and look around for another taxi. This is the optimum outcome — Theresa belongs with family — but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. I climb into the back of the cab that pulls up, giving the driver an address a few blocks from the library. I can use the walk, and the time. I need to figure out how I’m going to handle paying for all these wishes.

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One Comment
  1. Awesome alternate storyline! Although the thought of Finch getting in the line of fire makes me cringe (as it must have made Reese).

    “The throw her phone” — something went wrong here

    LOVE the last line!!! XD

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