After watching Dom drive away in his new ten-second car, Brian made a decision. That accomplished, he sighed and sat on the curb to wait for the black and whites.
"Who wants to be a detective anyway?" he asked rhetorically. "The hours suck."
"Captain." Brian stood calmly.
"So you really expect me to believe this was all a misunderstanding?"
Brian nodded, trying to project a confidence he didn't feel. "Yes, sir. Maria Toretto and I overheard a follower of Tran's discussing a plan to assassinate Dominic Toretto and his team. I broke cover to track them down, but we got there too late. One person had already been shot and two cars disabled."
He paused, but there was no comment forthcoming. Taking a deep breath, he continued.
"I took Mia home, where she, Dominic, Jesse and myself witnessed Johnny Tran and his cousin spray automatic fire in a residential neighbourhood. Jesse was killed and I took Dominic's Dodge Charger to pursue the Trans. Johnny died in a bad skid. Lance - the cousin - took a bad spill. He should recover without major injury." Brian relayed the last with profound regret.
The captain sighed and rubbed his temples. "I don't have to tell you, Brian, that this is a little hard to believe. There are a lot of inconsistencies. Witnesses say you and Toretto were fighting when the boy was killed. Others say that you made pursuit in a bright orange Supra, not a black Charger. And the guy in the hospital - Vince - why was he hit with a shotgun if the Trans carried automatic weapons?"
Brian didn't have an answer ready, and the captain nodded as if his silence was answer enough.
"Know what I think happened?"
Brian tried to look both calm and interested. "What, sir?"
"I think a truck-jacking went bad, and the trucker got away after winging Toretto's friend. But for some reason he didn't want his cargo looked over too closely by the authorities, so he never reported it. Then I think Toretto paid some friends to 'jack a truck somewhere else to establish an alibi for himself and his gang."
Brian grinned weakly. "They call themselves a team, not a a gang."
It was all he could do not to drop his gaze at the captain's acidic glare, letting him know just how unwelcome such comments were. "As I was saying, I think they set up a diversion to take the heat off, so we'd have to redirect police resources on more active criminal activity, on the cases our fair citizens see on the evening news." He spoke with more than a little sarcasm. "That's what I think. And I think they had help from someone who wasn't supposed to be helping them."
Brian forced himself not to react. There was nothing he could say that would make any difference now.
"You know the drill, Brian."
He did. Without drama, he laid his badge and gun on the desk.
"There'll be an investigation."
Brian nodded. It was a shock to hear, but he was prepared. "I'm going to go spend the time off with my family," he said. "I'll come back when they want to talk with me."
The captain hesitated, but nodded.
Brian grinned fondly at the girl who came barrelling down the walkway at him. He dropped his suitcase and caught her neatly, lifting her in a big bear hug. She squealed when he spun her around, sounding much younger than thirteen.
"Hey, Darry. Lookin' good."
Darry pouted when he put her down, but struck a flamboyant pose. "Yes, dahlink. Ah look mah-vellous, ah know," she drawled, flipping a blonde ponytail over one shoulder and batting O'Connor-blue eyes.
Brian laughed and handed her the lighter of his suitcases, hoisting the heavier one himself and continuing his way to where his parents waited for him on their front porch. For once, Darry didn't argue when she caught her father's signal to go on in and let 'the adults' talk, and she disappeared into the house.
"Hey, Mom, Dad," Brian greeted his parents with hugs and a tentative smile. "I guess you're wondering why -"
"Hold on," Mark O'Connor interrupted. "Breakfast is on the table. We might as well eat while we talk."
Brian nodded and followed them into the house.
"It's good to be home," he said, grinning at the sight of his baby sister peering down the stairs, obviously eager for permission to rejoin the adults.
When he was a kid, he'd always wanted a little brother. He hadn't gotten a sister until he was twelve, and by the time she was old enough to notice she had a brother, he was already in college. He supposed that was probably why they got along as well as they did; they never went through the usual sibling rivalry. And he knew she looked up to him - a lot.
She was a smart kid, though. Not nerd smart, maybe, but good with her hands, just like him and their dad. He wouldn't be surprised to see her go into mechanical engineering or something, and heknew his parents were already planning ahead for college. He hoped she wasn't growing up too fast, though. He'd seen too many pretty girls on the street lose that sense of innocence, and way too young. She deserved better.
He sighed. Darry was smart. He couldn't help but wonder if she'd still be happy to see him when she found out why he'd come home. Would she still look up at him? Still be proud of him?
Did he even deserve that anymore?
He washed his hands quickly in the kitchen, and then sat down with the family at the table. They began helping themselves and passing dishes, and Brian waited until everyone was served.
"So I'm getting a bit of flack about the way I handled a recent assignment," he admitted, and popped a forkful of scrambled eggs into his mouth.
"What happened?" Darry teased. "Fall in love with a mobster's wife?"
"No," Brian said. "His sister."
Elizabeth O'Connor sat up very straight and looked at her husband before studying her son very carefully. When she spoke, her tone was neutral, but interested. "Oh? Do tell."
"Her name is Mia. And if I have anything to say about it, you're all going to get to know her a lot better. And," Brian added archly, "Dom isn't a mobster. He's a mechanic and racer. He's made some bad decisions, but he's a good guy."
"Let me guess," his father weighed in. "You couldn't bring yourself to turn in the brother of the woman you love, and your superiors aren't too happy with you."
"In a nutshell? Yeah."
"That's so romantic," Darry said, and Brian had to laugh at her naïveté.
"You'll love Mia," he promised. "You all will."
"So," Elizabeth said, "tell us how you met."
"Yeah," Mark nodded. "And I wouldn't mind hearing the rest of it, either."
"I can't tell you everything," Brian said. "But I'll tell you what I can."
Brian hung up the phone and leaned against the wall, stunned. Outside, he could hear Darry and their dad playing some one-on-one in the driveway.
"God," he whispered shakily.
"What is it, Bri?"
He turned around and smiled at his mother, but it felt false. "It's nothing. My captain wants me back sooner than I expected, that's all."
"But you've only been here for a couple days," she protested. "Darry says you're taking her to some show next week.
He knew, and he felt bad about it. He'd been spending a lot of time with Darry, catching up, and it'd been a blast. He'd told her stories about Mia and Dom and the others, wanting her to be okay with the Mia thing, and she'd shown him her latest projects, and he couldn't help thinking that if he and Mia had a kid, he wanted one just like Darry.
God, he'd miss them all, so much.
"Mom " The silence stretched out. He couldn't bring himself to lie to her. "It's bad," he finally admitted. "Remember how I said Dom wasn't a mobster?"
"He's not. But someone who died while I was on the case has an uncle who is. Out of Vietnam and Singapore, apparently, and he's decided to blame me for the death of his favourite nephew."
"Oh, Bri, are - are you in danger?"
"I'm not sure," he lied. "But I'm heading back to California to figure something out with the Captain and some feds." Like witness protection, he thought but didn't say.
"When are you leaving?"
"Now, Mom. I'm sorry, but if there is someone out there with their eye on me, I don't want to bring them here oh, god, I shouldn't have come at all," he realized, sinking into a chair. "What was I thinking?"
"Nonsense," she said immediately, and she meant it. "Come on, have some dinner, and then if you have to go, at least that's one less airline meal you have to endure."
Somehow he managed a smile and stood up. "Sounds like a plan."
"Go on, then," his mother urged. "Call in Darry and your father. And maybe before you leave, you can tell us the rest of the story."
"Yeah," he said, his throat tightening.
Something told him it might be the last time he spoke to his family in a long, long time, maybe ever, and he wanted them to know why.
"It's some story."
Next: Brian's Legacy