Out of Jail Free
It’s happening. That part of how my brain works that I can never explain to anyone. As everyone crowds the back room of my bar while we wait for Kelex to arrive, each person recounts that day from fourteen years ago—not just that night, but the day. Now that we know Ox and Lex are involved, I think that’s important.
It begins. I can’t help it.
I watch Ox’s lips as they move, I hear the words coming from his mouth, but I’m leaving my body as I take it all in. Instead of sitting with him, Uncle Blake and the rest of the crew, I’m on that track.
Things I didn’t know I took in that night come back to me. I see Ox talking to one of the officers as he looks toward me in the back seat of the squad car. Lex is there too. In the distance, she’s standing next to a charger and bike while wringing her hands.
My phone buzzes and I’m snapped back into the room. I pull it out to see I have a text. I grunt and nod at the message. I figured as much.
“We ended the night as newlyweds,” Ox says.
“And you?” I say to Lex.
She’s the last one before I get to Kelex when he arrives. It’s here. What I’m looking for is here within this circle. No one is here I don’t trust. Not even their other halves.
Uncle Blake is here because he was the one who insisted it was time we do this. Shawna is on her way here because my instincts tell me she’s not excluded from this, especially not now.
That text just confirmed what I’ve suspected for a while now. However, my reach has only begun to get to the answers I needed there. Things have never been what they seemed around here.
“I woke that morning so excited. Ant and I were to meet at the courthouse. After my shower, I stepped out and could hear my father roaring at someone on the phone.
“I rolled my eyes and ignored it that day. It was nothing new and I wanted to stay focused on my wedding day,” Lex starts.
I take a sip of my water as she continues. While I listen, Uncle Blake moves to look at his watch, then his phone, grabbing my attention. My focus homes in on him, it all seems nonchalant, but I know better.
I begin to float from the room again. This time, I’m in a room playing with Ox. We’re little, back when our father was alive.
The first thing to grab my attention as I focus on the room is the Black guy. His voice has a smooth cadence about it. He’s talking to my father, Uncle Blake, and Marvin Jennings.
That’s when it clicks. This is Lester Smith, Lex’s dad. I remember him.
“I have all we need to take them down. We need to make a move soon. If we don’t, I’m going to lose my hold on Vander.
“Things won’t be as easy for us. We won’t be untouchable,” he said the last part toward Uncle Blake.
“You do this, Nicky. It changes everything. It won’t matter if we’re untouchable,” Uncle Blake said.
“That’s easy for you to say. We’re taking all the risk. We’ve lost the most,” Lester said.
“I’m sorry about Willow and your wife, but someone has to think with a level head here.”
“You’ve seen how they’re turning on me. How they’re making plays against the founders. What will happen if we don’t make a power play and stop them?”
Uncle Blake sighed. “I think Basil is right. We allow this to play out. Don’t rock the boat, Nicky. Give it some time, Lester. I’ll steer this ship right. You’ll be back on top in no time.”
“Meanwhile, you haven’t lost anything and this divide is happening because of you,” Lester seethed.
“Because of me? It has nothing to do with me. This started long before—”
“Enough,” my father barked. “I’m bringing them down, Blake. All of them.”
The door to the room opened and my mother walked in with another woman. I go to zone in on the woman and the room loses focus.
“After we married, I went home to get a few things to spend the night with Ant. We had plans to meet that night on the cliff,” Lex’s voice pulls my attention.
I’m back in the bar, present and in my body, but my focus is on Uncle Blake. This motherfucker. He knows. He’s figured out how my mind works.
The one thing I never explained to Skittles about how I think is how I catalog information. It’s one of the reasons I’m able to remember so much. I chunk things down and compartmentalize them for future use.
One spark and I can pull an entire thread. It’s like linking a web together. Nothing is forgotten, and at the right time, I can connect all the dots.
Now the question is, has he known all along? I get the feeling this is what he’s been counting on, but did he mean for this to happen—to use Josh to trigger me? A part of me wouldn’t put it past him.
I step out of the back seat of the car Blake Knight sent for me and frown as I see I’m being dropped off at Fuck Off. The last thing I need is a bar. A drink or two, yes.
To be in a bar, not so much. I’m barely containing my temper as it is. Even a single hour behind bars for the murder of that bastard is too much. Unfortunately, I was there for three.
Someone murdered my father and they’re trying to frame me. I hated his guts, but if I had done this, it would have been much cleaner. Besides, I have too much to live for to do something like this here.
Up until a few days ago, everything had finally been going right. I have a family to think about. I would never have jeopardized any of that for Ulysses Kylix.
“And someone knows that,” I mutter to myself. “If any of my family is harmed, someone is going to die by my hands. That’s a promise.”
“Yo,” Pit calls as he steps out of the bar. “You good?”
“Do I look like I’m good? Tell me you know something.”
“For once, Vander is silent. Although, I want to talk to you. I have some questions.”
“Fuck,” I grind out. I just want my bed and the woman who has become my calm. The last thing I want is to be interrogated again. “Come on. Let’s get this shit over with. I’m only doing this because I know you. You’re going to figure this out.”
“You can bank on that, but I need everyone to come clean. I want it all.”
“What do you mean by that?” I ask as we walk through the bar headed for the back room.
There’s no way he can know what I’ve actually done. There’s only one person with that information. I school my features because I know I created that situation and I’ve handled it. The one person who knows is the only one who can bury me with that truth.
Pit continues saving me from my thoughts. “It dawned on me tonight Blake has figured out how my brain works. He’s been purposely drip-feeding me the information.
“He understands that at some point, I’m going to put all the pieces together. However, I don’t think he has all the pieces himself,” I reply.
“Then who does?”
“We do. The assholes. We’ve had them all along.”
“Okay, so what do you think you need to hear?”
“I need to hear everyone’s truth. How that night happened for them. That’s where the tie is. We’re bigger than Vander. This is bigger than Vander. I just need to hear that night from everyone’s point of view.”
“So you need me to relive it?”
“I’m sorry to ask this of you, but I need you to go back. While we were waiting for you to get out, everyone else told me about their experience from the start of that day. Deacon, Tak, Luke, Skittles, even Ox and Lex.
“Now, I need to hear it from you. My brain will grab the pieces from there.”
“All right. If this will help you figure out what the hell is going on before I lose everything, fine. Let’s get this over with.”
This isn’t the only shit I have to get in check. However, I know to keep one lid closed, I need to get a handle on the one about to blow. We stop outside the private back room.
Pit turns to look at me. We lock gazes as his asks the one question I knew would come up. I’m not about to explain myself, but I understand his concern. I respect it.
“I’m not playing games with her. At first, she was doing me a solid—keeping me sane—while I was a shoulder to lean on. There was no way we could know this was going to happen. Now that it has, I’m sort of glad. She’s my alibi,” I say to his unspoken words.
Deep down, I know that’s bullshit. She may be my alibi, but this goes deeper than that. It always has. I’ve just been in a battle with who I am and what I want.
“I already know this. I think you should be the one to talk to Skittles. This is going to hurt her feelings.”
“I’ll handle it. Come on, the sooner I tell you what happened, you all will know there was no way I could’ve done this.”
He places a hand on my shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze. “We all already know you didn’t do this. Now we’re going to prove it and find out who did. I’m not allowing you to go down over this.”