First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
JB wondered if everyone had forgotten about him. For what must have been the tenth time, he flipped up the protective glass covering of his watch and felt the clock hand and embossments. Not even two full minutes had passed since the last time he checked. He snapped the covering closed and resisted the urge to groan.
Cleto was impatient, too. The two of them sat in the apartment’s living room, both left behind by the rest of the gang to wait with their least favorite person. Cleto had the news on TV, trying to glean information about how things were going, but nobody seemed to have figured out what was happening yet. Every few seconds, Cleto would flip to a different channel to see if they had better updates.
“—earlier today when the festivities were attacked—”
“—unknown at this time how many—”
“—White Knight and the Illusionist were seen—”
“—getting word of a disturbance at the DSA—”
JB fiddled with the cuffs of his sleeves and shifted positions in the armchair. He strained his ears to listen past the sound of the TV for something closer: a muffled footstep on the carpet or the soft click of a lock being picked. But he didn’t hear anything. Maybe nobody was coming. The Black Valentine had probably lied to him to make him keep quiet. JB should have expected it, so he didn’t know why the realization made him want to scream.
“That’s it.” A creak of the chair signaled that Cleto had surged to his feet. “They should have been back by now. We’re going.”
JB clutched the sides of the armchair. “What?”
“We’re going. On your feet. Don’t make me tell you again.”
JB didn’t move. He had to stay here. If the Black Valentine had been telling the truth, they would be coming here for him. She could have been lying, but…it was his only chance. His only chance to get away from Cleto. Because if JB’s last flash of the future came to pass and Cleto found out, JB was dead. Cleto would beat him to death with his massive fists just like he’d always threatened. What should he do? What could he do? If Val had lied to him, she’d given him a death sentence. But if she’d been telling the truth….
A jolt went through his body. It was a gamble, but he had to find a way to stay put.
JB rose to his feet, then moaned dramatically and sank back into the chair.
“What is it?” Cleto snapped.
“We need to stay.” JB tried to make his voice sound wise and enigmatic. “Blue—Mr. Arcaño is going to call you. You need to be here to pick up the phone, or….”
“What does he tell me?”
“I don’t know, but it’s important.”
Cleto grumbled, and JB shrunk back, waiting for the telltale footsteps warning that Cleto was stomping up to smack him. But instead he heard another creak as Cleto sat down. JB almost relaxed, but then he remembered that he had no guarantee anyone was coming to help him. He felt like he was going to throw up.
Cleto finally settled on one news station for a minute, letting JB hear a full report. It was a disaster out there, which meant everything was going according to Blueblood’s stupid-ass plan. JB had clenched his jaw to keep from speaking up when he first heard it being outlined. Blueblood was hunting deer with a bazooka, making a huge mess and a ton of noise when a rifle would be so much more efficient. If it had been JB—not that JB would ever have reason to want to steal something from the DSA building—but if it had been him, he would have done things differently.
He checked his watch three more times as he waited. With each minute that passed, he felt sicker to his stomach. Cleto was restless, shifting in his seat and sighing noisily, waiting for a phone call that wasn’t going to come. JB tried to come up with a backup plan. They were in some kind of apartment, so there must be other people nearby. If Cleto started hitting him, maybe JB could scream loud enough that someone would hear and call the cops. Unless Cleto gagged him first. Or dragged him somewhere far away.
“When’s that phone call coming?” Cleto barked.
JB was definitely going to be sick. His stomach rebelled, and his skin felt overheated. “I…”
His consciousness fell out of his body, and he was in another time, one not too far in the future. When he came back to himself with a jerk, he knew what he had to do.
“Blueblood’s not going to call,” he said.
A deathly silence filled the room, followed by a sharp “What?”
“He can’t.” JB felt giddy as he rose from the chair. “He’s dead.”
Cleto surged to his feet. “You little shit. You wanna die?”
“I’m done with you, Cleto.” JB spoke fast, hearing the man’s stomping approach. “You’re just a dumb bully. If Blueblood wanted my loyalty, he should have treated me—”
A fist collided with his mouth, knocking him to the floor. The world spun, and JB assessed the pain from on top of the soft, short carpet.
“Tell me the truth!” Cleto roared. “Tell me what you saw!”
JB wiped coppery blood from his lip. “Sorry, I’m not a necromancer.”
JB sat up and smiled as he clarified. “I don’t talk to dead people.”
A deafening gunshot punctuated his statement. JB didn’t flinch. Even if he hadn’t heard the thump of Cleto’s massive body hitting the floor beside him, he would have known what had happened. As pain blossomed across his face from his mouth, he groped for the armchair to use as leverage to stand.
A meaty hand grabbed his and pulled him up.
“Hey, kid,” said Eddy. “You ready to get out of here?”
You didn’t think I forgot about JB, did you? 😉
It’s funny. When I first envisioned this serial, I wanted to show the story of how Jeant-Baptiste became a crime lord, but here we are at the end, and the only thing JB wants is to go home. I guess I’ll have to write another story afterward where something awful happens and destroys any hope of him leading a normal life. Sorry, JB.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! And Happy Monday to those who don’t. I hope you all have a relaxing, stress-free day.