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71

I explained quickly to my mom and Charlie what had happened, my eyes veering to the door every few seconds. Where was my dad? Where were Dez and Ransom? What in the hell was happening?

My mom and Charlie both looked shell-shocked, not surprisingly, and so when I came to the end of my tale, I ran through it again, as much for them as for me. My skin and my body were jumpy. I told them how Id been doing some moonlighting for a private detective after Sam disappeared, that I still worked with him occasionally and hed asked me to chat up Dez Romano at Gibsons in order to get some dirt on someone he wanted to put back in jail. Dad saw me with him, and when the situation spun out of control, he stepped in and saved me.

I told them about Italy and Elena and Maurizio. I just kept talking until it looked as if the information was settling in. My mom was leaning with one side of her body against a wall, her arms crossed. Her face was composed now.

Its so bizarre were having this conversation, I said. I looked around the room-so plain, so simple compared to what was going on inside.

Its bizarre and cool, Charlie said, leaning against a wall.

My mother sent him a look I recognized, one she gave Charlie a lot, which said, I love my son, profoundly, but where did he come from?

My mother stepped forward and knelt to look at Charlies face, turning it this way and that and examining him. It was really just a split lip and some general swelling on the right side more than anything. Some blood dropped from Charlies lip onto my mothers white shirt, but she didnt seem to notice or care.

Nothing seems broken, she said.

Whats he like? Charlie asked, looking over her shoulder at me.

I thought about that. He seems like someone whos been through a lot. Too much, probably. Seems like a lot of his life has been bled out of him, so hes hard to really get a read on. But he still knows how to laugh.

At that, my mother nodded slowly, as if she understood what I meant.

Just then the door banged open, and we jumped.

Ransom. He grinned like, How do you like that entrance? He waved a gun at my mother and Charlie. Over there, he gargled through his thick lips. After theyd complied, he looked at me, smiled sickeningly and walked toward me.


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