I watched the place from across the street for a long time.
A garage. Nothing flashy; kinda conservative, actually. No rusting cars out front. Classy joint. And don't I sound like a tough little shit?
I'd have known what it was without even looking for a sign, though; the smell was a dead giveaway. Getting a peek at the expensive racers through open doors was just the icing on the cake.
"Toretto's." I tested the name, out loud. It even sounded cool. Exotic, but not too exotic.
My mouth twisted in a smirk when I took in the figure at the counter.
She was pretty, there was no denying it. Long black hair. Skinny but with curves. And she had some seriously thick books open on the counter. Maybe she was as smart as Bri said she was. She wasn't smiling, though. He said she was always smiling. That must have been before.
'Before.' Suddenly I was angry, angry at her, angry at everything.
"I hope you were worth it, you fuckin' bitch."
I doubted it. I didn't care how smart or pretty she was. She couldn't possibly be worth the price he paid for loving her.
"Nice. I should wash your mouth out with soap, kid."
I spun around, startled. I had an audience. Three tough looking guys and an even tougher looking chick. All four glared down at me.
It had to have been the tall one who'd spoken, though. Who else could have a voice like that?
I didn't answer right away. I couldn't. They scared the shit out of me.
But right on the heels of that I felt a dull rush of anger. Fuck being scared. I was done being scared.
"Dom Toretto, I presume?" I was careful not to let my satisfaction show when he stiffened. "And you must be Letty, Vince, and Leon."
A shake of one guy's head told me I got the last two mixed up. So the one with the arm cast was Vince, and the lean guy was Leon. Noted.
"Who's askin'?" Dom said, politely enough but real low and threatening, letting me know I had about one chance to answer correctly.
I pasted a sarcastic smile on my face and held out my hand as if to shake his. "Darry O'Connor. Pleased to meetcha'."
They ignored my hand, and I shrugged and put it down. Jeez. Rude much?
"O'Connor," Dom echoed blankly. I stood up straighter as they looked me over. Yep, folks, step right up, see the O'Connor genes in action. Sun-bleached blond hair, blue eyes, bland all-American semi-good looks that meant I wasn't the most popular kid but never lacked for a date to lame school dances. Though I didn't see too many of those happening in the near future.
"Brian's sister," he deduced. It wasn't really a question. I always did look a lot like my brother. Dom looked around, warily studying our surroundings.
"Oh, Bri's not here," I assured him.
And we're back to the staring games. One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three -
"So why are you?"
My smile dropped. "Because my brother's dead, you asshole. And as far as I can tell, it's your fault."
They were like fucking statues. I had the urge to find a pin and drop it. Just to see if that stupid saying was true.
"Brian's dead? How?"
How touching. You'd think he actually cared.
"Inside, Dom," Letty said quickly, and in a second I found myself being pushed ahead of him as the five of us walk into the relative privacy of Dom's garage. I took a minute to look around, brightening up when I saw one that looked familiar. It wasn't orange anymore, but it was Bri's car all right. He'd given me a picture of him next to it, and I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen.
"Don't touch me," I snapped suddenly, because Dom was about to grab my arm. Damn it. I thought I had that under control. I glared at him and he backed off, just gesturing me towards a different door than I'd been headed for.
At least no one else seemed to hear the way my voice cracked.
As I turned to walk ahead of them, though, something about the way Letty was looking at me gave me a sinking feeling, like I'd just told her something without meaning to. For a split second I thought I saw a look of understanding cross her face and I narrowed my eyes. She nodded slightly. I don't know what she just agreed to, exactly, but I don't think any of the guys caught it.
What the hell?
Inside, Vince closed the door and caught Mia's eye. She came over to stand by Dom, clearly puzzled when I took a moment to study her up close.
"Mia," Dom said, "meet Brian's sister."
She looked at me with these wide eyes, and it was almost pathetic how eager she got, like he was going to just walk in behind me, or something.
"Relax, he's not coming," I told her, unable to hide my hostility. She recoiled, clearly a little stunned by my words and tone.
Bri was right. She seemed like a nice girl. I used to be a nice girl.
"Mia," Dom said, gently now, as if there was no one in the world except his precious fucking little sister, "Brian's dead." Oh, would you look at that. How fucking sweet. I rolled my eyes, determined not to reveal just how desperately I'm missing Bri right now. He used to look at me like that.
"How?" she gasped, and they all turned back to me. "When?"
I decided to answer the last one first; it was simpler. "'Bout a month ago."
Dom stiffened. "We didn't hear anything. Cop dies, usually you hear something."
"You wouldn't have. It happened in Seattle and it was hushed up."
He looked at me suspiciously. "Seattle? Hushed up? Try again."
Now that made me angry. I hate being patronized. "Seattle, because that's home. He was undercover, you idiot. Fake background. And hushed up because the feds do that when they're in the middle of ongoing cases with international components."
Ooh, did all the big words get their attention? Maybe it was the insult. Oops.
"That mouth is gonna get you in trouble some day."
He ignored me. "And what do you mean, 'ongoing cases'? Last I heard, Brian lost his badge."
Check it out, the sister is shooting daggers at him. I guess he kinda forgot to tell her that bit of juicy gossip. That's right, bitch, he was under review because of you and your asshole brother.
But I was tired of this banter bullshit. Fuck, I was tired, period. I wasn't raised on the street and a month on the run left me a little on edge.
Time to get serious.
"Some guy from a case he was working on undercover found out who he was and decided to get rid of him," I said. "Called in a hit from China, if you can believe it. Was upset over losing his nephew." I paused, as if I needed a moment to remember the rest. As if. "What was the name again? Oh yeah, Johnny Tran. That's it."
Ah, now that got 'em. Yeah, you should feel guilty. If you had any idea how much it hurt me to say that name Holy shit, the bitch was crying on her brother's shoulder. Oh boo fucking hoo.
Dom looked down at me from over her shoulder. What, not happy with me? Well fuck you. "Why are you here, kid?"
"I need money. Bri told me you'd help me out."
They all looked kind of wary now.
I sighed impatiently. "Before he died. He said not to go to the cops, that there was a leak or something and he didn't know who to trust. He told me that you could help me disappear."
Eyes narrowing, Dom studied me a little closer. I stared back at him, letting my face just sort of go blank. It wasn't hard. After some of the shit I'd seen recently, it'd take a lot more than his staring to scare me. I mean, really scare me.
"A month. What took you so long?"
"I didn't know who to trust either," I snapped. "I don't ask for help from known criminal types until I've run out of better options."
"Nice way to ask for help. Why do you need to disappear?"
I wasn't sure how to answer that. Without really thinking, I lifted one hand to play with the chain around my neck, I nervous habit I picked up somewhere. That, of course, lifted my top slightly, a cropped top that hung below my beltline if I kept my arms down. Usually I wore a longer t-shirt, but I hadn't done laundry lately and my other shirt was crusty. Just as I realized my mistake, one of the guys - Leon - started saying something and invading my personal space, looking like he was gonna pull up my shirt to see.
I knew what he was doing, I really did. He just saw something weird and he was checking it out. He wasn't trying to hurt me, I knew this, and I heard Letty shout "No!" as clear as day, but instinct is instinct and a second later he was screaming because the screwdriver that had been sitting out on the bench next to me was sticking out of his arm.
It was chaos after that. The next thing I knew I was being pushed against a wall and having the wind knocked out of me. Dom was so fucking big, it wasn't much of a fight, although I kicked and struggled as hard as I could. That didn't even faze him, so I changed tactics, going limp and just letting myself collapse. I guess Dom didn't see that one coming, because he lost his grip on me and I rolled away from him, grabbing the first thing I saw.
Excellent. Welding torch. I've watched Bri enough to know how to work one of these. They froze as I flicked it on and waved it in front of me, all except Leon, who was swearing and wrapping his bleeding arm in some cloth.
I didn't realise how bright these things got, though. I hoped no one was rushing me, because I couldn't see a damned thing beyond the spots.
"I said," I repeated, voice low and as dangerous as I felt, "don't. Fucking. Touch. Me. Ever," I added, for emphasis. No one said anything. "Got it?"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Letty come closer. I backed away a bit, trying to figure out what she was up to.
"No one's gonna touch you here," she told me, her voice firm. She was the kind that doesn't take any shit from anybody, I could tell, and I knew she wasn't lying.
"Tell them to back off."
My eyes were adjusting now, and I saw her lift her hand. The rest of 'em kind of fell back, looking back and forth between us like this was some kind of tennis game. It'd be funny, except that nothing about this was funny. Nothing.
Oh shit. I could see her clearly now and she was giving me that look again. The knowing one. "Gimme the torch," she said patiently, and I had an idea that this was not a tone the others heard from her often. "No one's coming any closer, I just want you to give me the torch before anyone gets hurt."
Leon started to say something in protest but Dom shut him up with a flick of his hand, his eyes darting back and forth between Letty and me, like he was trying to figure something out.
But it was her eyes I couldn't look away from.
Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. I was not gonna fucking cry. No fucking way.
"What happened, kid?" Letty asked, quietly. Real intense. "Tell me what happened."
I tried to tell her to fuck off, to tell her that it was none of her business. But I couldn't make my mouth say the words. It'd been a month since anyone looked at me like that, like they were seeing me, and I didn't stand a chance.
Finally I just couldn't take it anymore. I just couldn't. The last four weeks had been hell, a kind of hell I'd never known existed, and I was at the end of my rope.
And they'd known Brian. He'd trusted them enough to send me here.
I didn't turn the torch off, but I felt deflated somehow. I didn't feel so dangerous anymore. I felt the tears start coming, and I knew my hand was shaking. It was fucking humiliating.
But none of that mattered when I looked in Letty's dark eyes. I forgot all about the rest of them. They didn't matter; I just wanted to tell someone who understood. I didn't want to feel so goddamned alone anymore.
"We were having dinner," I said first, because when I dreamed about it, that's where it always started. "Three of them came into the house and they pointed guns at us and they tied us up and - and -"
"And they they killed my Mom and Dad. Right in right in front of me. I my Mom's head "
The universe had shrunk to the two of us, just me and someone named Letty that I didn't know except from Bri's stories, and I was drowning in her eyes as she came closer. God, I wanted to drown. It hurt too much. I could still smell their blood. I could still see my mom's brains on the wall.
"They ... hurt Bri."
I ignored the sound of Dom's bitch sister crying. I barely had a handle on my own pain, thank you very much. I refused to take on hers too.
"How'd you get away, kid?" I barely noticed as Letty took the torch out of my hand, made sure it was off and laid it down, out of the way.
"One of them untied me, 'cause they were gonna hurt me and make Bri watch, and Bri hurt himself real bad b-b-but he got a hand free -"
A bloody hand, because he'd ripped half the skin off to pull it out of the cuffs."- And he shot the guy and he told me to run. I didn't want to leave him, I told him I wouldn't, but he was still handcuffed by the other hand and I didn't have the key and he told me he was wasn't going to make it and there was an address in his wallet and - and -"
The words ran together as I struggled to get it all out.
"He made me take his wallet and he made me go. He-he pointed the gun at m-m-me," I told her, knowing I was starting to hyperventilate but powerless to stop it. "And he told me he'd sh-shoot me himself if I didn't run, if I didn't save myself, and ... and I left Bri to die, and I just want Bri back so bad, I want him and my mom and my dad, and I swear I'd never ask for anything else if ... if ..."
This was pain. This was hurt so fresh and so raw it felt like I was dying. And I wanted to. Just fall to the floor and shrivel up and die and see my family again.
But she caught me before I could, and she was so strong, she just held me up as I cried.
I cried until I couldn't cry anymore, and then I slept.
Everything else could just fucking wait.