The Academy:The Other Side of Envy(3)

By: C. L. Stone

Sang: I’m fine. Just wanted to talk.

Mr. Blackbourne: On my way.

My eyes widened and I couldn’t think of a response other than to thank him. I didn’t know where he was and hadn’t meant to disrupt whatever it was he was doing. For some reason, I assumed he’d be where we were going. Now it felt like he was involved with something else and he was going to come and get me.

I squirmed in my seat, folding my arms over my stomach and staring out the window. He was going to show up in the middle of the job we were on and pull me out. Maybe he thought I was nervous about participating so he was going to step in.

My nerves worked into a frenzy. Talking to Mr. Blackbourne was the right decision, but doing so made me anxious.

Eventually Silas took an exit into North Charleston. He wound his way through a business district, where storefronts were either in severe disrepair or boarded up.

He checked his phone and tapped at the map on the screen. He drove on for a little longer, slowing in front of an old brick storefront. The faded signs said it used to be a hardware store. Cardboard and newspaper covered the front window. Part of the covered windows were painted over with graffiti.

Silas drove past the building and parked a couple of blocks away against the curb. He and I were unlatching our seatbelts when my door was flung open without me touching it. A person bent in, reaching for me.

Silas instantly grabbed my arm, tugging me toward him protectively.

Dr. Green popped his head in on my side, looking at me and then he smiled. “Good morning beautiful,” he said. His eyes were wide awake, playful. He must have gotten some good sleep recently. He usually looked tired.

“You shouldn’t sneak up on us,” Silas said, slowly releasing me. “I almost punched you.”

“You should look before you punch,” Dr. Green said. He winked at me and then held his hand out. “Come on, Sang. I only just heard you were coming along.”

“I didn’t know you were here,” I said and took his hand, stepping out onto the sidewalk beside him.

“If we can convince these kids to trust us, I should take them over to the hospital for physicals.” Dr. Green wore jeans and a yellow polo shirt, looking younger to me since he was dressed down. His sandy blond hair was windblown in the back. He closed the car door behind me and Silas joined us on the sidewalk. Dr. Green motioned to an alleyway. “Come on, we’re hiding over here. I just got here, too.”

I walked beside them. We turned a corner, and found Kota, Victor and Nathan waiting. They crouched on top of some old crates, heads huddled together as they talked.

Nathan was in jeans and a tank shirt with a light, red jacket, and wore a headset. Kota was in jeans and a long sleeve T-shirt, and had his phone out in his hand. Victor looked stylish but out of place in his Armani shirt and black slacks. He had his laptop on a crate in front of him, and wore a headset identical to Nathan’s.

Kota looked up and I could tell from that one glance he wasn’t completely comfortable with me being there, but he changed his expression quickly to a pleasant smile. “Good morning,” he said.

I nodded and said a quiet good morning. His concerned looked made me question the dangerousness of the situation. What exactly were we going to do? Visions of Luke and I breaking into a house popped into my head. I hoped we weren’t going to be getting shot at today.

“They’re inside,” Victor said. He reached back, pulling up another crate. He positioned it beside him and then looked at me pointedly, tapping the top of the crate. I got the hint and sat beside him. He smiled and his fire eyes flickered with life. “Luke snuck in already. He’s done a head count. There’s seven.”

“Are there any more around here?” Dr. Green asked.

“He can’t tell,” Victor said. “He’s only seen the seven. They’re all in the back room. I think it’s the most secure, and there’s plenty of escape routes. Luke saw a few noisemaker traps near the doors. It’s like they’ve done this before: squatting in an abandoned place, knowing to run if they hear anything unusual.”

“They’re just kids?” Dr. Green asked.

“Looks like,” Kota said. He finished with his phone and then put it in his pocket. “We need to get Silas wired.”

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